It's not a matter of "IF" ... it's only a matter of "WHEN" you and your business will be affected by a natural or man-made disaster. Chances are greater today than ever before that your normal business operations will be interrupted by an equipment failure, operator error, power outage or other disaster.
How quickly your company can get back to business after a terrorist attack or tornado, a fire or flood often depends on emergency planning done today. Planning and preparation BEFORE disaster strikes is the best way to ensure your business will survive! Here are ten steps you can take to protect your business:
Before a Disaster:
- Create a virtual disaster team within your company. A virtual disaster team is the best way to gather information and perspective that is essential in preparing an effective disaster prevention and recovery plan. Proper disaster planning requires information from all perspectives of your company, as well as outside sources. Sole proprietors, coaches, and consultants should seek help from friends and associates in viewing their business operations from all perspectives.
- Conduct a complete asset inventory. Be sure to include all equipment, furnishings, supplies and inventory. Then augment your written inventory with still photos and/or videotape of all areas.
- Protect your equipment. Move mission-critical equipment away from doors and windows where they can be damaged by debris, wind or water during a storm. Protect major industrial or production equipment, office machines, computers, peripherals and accessories from dust, dirt, debris, moisture and power fluctuations. Install surge suppressors and uninterruptible power sources. Use equipment covers to protect from water leaks from overhead pipes and facilities. Move equipment, documents, supplies and inventory out of basements and other areas of your facility subject to flooding.
- Protect your vital records. Identify records that are vital to your business operation. Store copies of these records offsite. Implement a records management program as standard office procedures for handling electronic files and paper documents. Establish and enforce a computer data backup system.
- Establish offsite storage and alternate location policies. Develop a policy for storing original documents, vital records and critical electronic files offsite. Establish an alternate or emergency location from which you can perform the critical functions of your business should you be unable to access your business facility. If you have others on your staff, make sure they understand these policies and their individual responsibilities during and after a disaster situation.
- Develop, test and revise your disaster plan. Once you have developed what appears to be a good plan for limiting the effects of a disaster or business interruption, you must test the plan to ensure it meets your needs and expectations. Keep accurate and detailed notes through all phases of plan testing. Revise your plan based on your test results and notes; then test your revised plan.
- Seek legal counsel on contracts and agreements. Entering into any type of agreement, contract, lease or proposal, or signing any document you have not read or you do not fully understand is an open invitation to business disaster. Don't try to "Go it alone!"
- Review insurance needs and documents. Meet with your insurance agent, consultant or advisor, and determine your insurance needs. Go over your policy statements and make sure you understand types of coverage, coverage limits, exclusions and deductible amounts. If your business is located in a 100-year flood plain or if the area has ever flooded in the past, you need to purchase a separate flood insurance policy.
- Prepare yourself and your staff for business interruptions and disasters. Large or small... natural or manmade... whether it strikes you directly or a business you depend on... you should be prepared BEFORE a disaster or business interruption occurs. Your business disaster plan will not be effective unless you know and understand your needs and responsibilities when a disaster or business interruption affects your business. Arrange first aid and CPR classes through local emergency officials. Develop and maintain offsite storage policies, office operating procedures and computer backup schedules and procedures. When you read about a disaster affecting other businesses, review your disaster plan and make sure it covers such an event. Consider forming your own Community Emergency Response Team to help take care of your business and those near you in case you are isolated during a disaster.
- Prepare your workplace for disaster. Collect and remove trash, rubbish and debris inside and outside your facility. Clean your roof, gutters, downspouts and drainage ditches. Perform a physical inspection of your business and look for potential security, fire and electrical wiring hazards. Develop an orderly evacuation procedure that takes into account any persons with disabilities. Also establish a primary and a secondary evacuation route from your facility. Identify the safest locations in your business to protect your employees and customers should a tornado strike during business hours, and then mark the spots for all to see.