If there’s one sentiment most people (including business owners) share about natural or man-made disasters, it’s this: I can’t imagine it happening to me.
Unfortunately, disasters of all kinds strike every day and someone—often, large groups of individuals or businesses—is adversely affected. CNBC notes that the Federal Emergency Management Agency claims that, after a disaster, 40 percent or more of small businesses end up closing for good. FEMA also reports that, of businesses forced to shutter their doors for five days or more from a disaster, 90 percent fail completely within one year.
What can happen to small businesses as a result of a disaster? The threats are deadly serious, ranging from an immediate loss of sales and revenue and high levels of customer dissatisfaction, to a spike in operational expenses and possible fines or penalties incurred by an unexpected breach in vendor or supplier contracts.
What are you doing to ensure employee safety and business continuity in the event of a disaster? Here are tips to aid in your disaster planning:
Evaluate possible threats.
What threats are possible where your business is located? These days, the list is long and alarming—everything from storms and region-wide flooding to workplace violence (including active shooters) and the ever-present risk of cybercrime. To assess your company’s likelihood of exposure, consider past episodes of natural or man-made disasters that have taken place in your area. This is a useful first step in determining what threats are most likely to occur.
But don’t stop there. Your disaster preparedness plan should be as broad as possible, taking other possible scenarios into consideration.
Include elements crucial to any disaster preparedness plan.
Certain elements are essential to the effectiveness of your plan, including:
- An evacuation policy for employees, with specified routes and maps
- Comprehensive communications protocols
- Employee training to prepare for a disaster
- Contact information for those responsible for disaster recovery
- Designated individuals responsible for rescue and medical emergencies
- Instructions for handling of hazardous materials
Other important elements include how to assist employees with any handicaps; industry-related safety requirements mandated by the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration; and agreed-upon methods for retrieving key business and customer data.
Appoint an in-house “emergency czar.”
The title can be of your choosing, but to avoid organizational chaos it’s wise to appoint a disaster plan leader or coordinator. This individual oversees development of the plan and helps to ensure it reaches completion. Also, “any vendor, supplier or government agency that you use on a day-to-day basis” should be included in your planning, notes Business.com. Representatives from these organizations “can explain their own disaster preparedness planning and how that will affect your post-disaster operations.”
Another option involves reaching out to public safety representatives on the city police force or fire department and reviewing your preparedness plan with them. They may very likely have valuable insights that make your plan more viable and effective.
Make sure safety equipment and products are ready for use.
The impact of some disasters can be reduced if a company has the proper safety equipment on-site (such as fire extinguishers) and ready for use. Such products “need to be monitored to make sure that not only are all the items within manufacturer’s code limits, but that they have not been deleted in some way,” says SmallBizDaily.
As noted, preparedness begins with a well-crafted emergency plan. The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers a 10-page document template that “defines what your emergency response team is expected to do” in the event of an emergency. This can serve as a valuable starting point for your own in-depth disaster preparedness planning.
Want to learn more about preparing against the risk of cybercrime? Check out the free TAB BOSS Webinar, “Why Small Businesses are a Cyber Criminal’s Favorite Target.”