Watching the impact of the 8.9 magnitude Japanese earth quake on CNN brings to mind the processes and steps necessary to not only survive a disaster, but rebuild afterward. Small businesses are particularly vulnerable to catastrophic events and are even more necessary in the rebuilding efforts in their local communities. Whether it’s an ice storm that brings severe power outages or heavy rains and devastating flooding, finding a way to restart your business and support the needs of your community are priority number one in the aftermath.
One study on small business disaster preparedness reported that the probability that a company will stay in business dramatically decreases with each day its operations are interrupted. By the seventh day of a business interruption, that business would have less than a one-percent chance of staying in business. A business armed with both preparedness and recovery plans is far more likely to survive and even thrive after a crisis, so let’s get to work.
After the immediate emergency has subsided, it’s time to gather your resources and evaluate the damage. Depending on the type of event that’s occurred, there may still be after-event threats such as fire, flooding, or earthquake after-shocks. Your number one priority is to make sure that you and your employees are safe and removed from danger.
It may seem frivolous or even ridiculous for a small business to spend time working on a disaster preparedness and recovery plan (DRP), but it is important for every employee to fully understand your company’s emergency plans. These plans should include actions to be taken in the event of a fire, flood, tornado and even earthquake and tsunami should you be located in a region that may be impacted by such disasters. Do you and your employees know:
- Where evacuation regrouping/meet-up locations are outside your work facility?
- How to effectively evacuate the facility including alternate routes if the main
route is blocked?
- How to report emergencies to local authorities including the business’ location and his or her approximate location inside
- The location of fire extinguishers and more importantly, how to operate them?
- Location of gas main shut-offs and how to turn them off? Is there a wrench located permanently near the shut-off for quick shut-down?
- Location of water main?
Have a list of emergency contact numbers for employees, emergency services and business recovery contractors in several locations including at the office, at your home, and located on a remote server. There should be at least two individuals within the organization who are designated as media and public relations contacts and one other employee who will be responsible for contact with all employees. A small contact card can be printed for every employee and can be easily stored in a purse or wallet. Make sure you update the contact information at least annually or more often as necessary.
It is wise to have at least one member of your staff, preferably someone who is full time, who knows first aid and CPR and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). This is especially important for small businesses dealing in food service, sports/ athletics, or who deal with a large public.
After ensuring the safety of you and your employees, restoring business operations is your next priority. Off-site data storage facilities like SugarSync, OpenDrive and Mozy can provide instant back-up to any computer and help you to quickly re-open. Remote storage for your data files and accounting systems will enable you to run your business from any location and keep customers informed and cash flowing. If reconstruction is necessary, customer databases can be used to send electronic and physical direct mail pieces to help keep customers informed of the business’ progress and anticipated re-opening date.
Do you have a plan for where you can run an emergency operations center in the event that your business isn’t accessible? Research local business parks that rent single offices. Keep a copy of these business parks in your emergency contact information. Often these business suites will include the use of a receptionist, business center such as copier, fax and conference room, or even a rent a portion of their space on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Other businesses in your area may also have unused space that could be made available to you in the event of a disaster. Finding these work spaces will become a matter of networking and knowing what your fellow business colleagues have available. If you don’t know where to begin looking, call your local chamber of commerce.
If you are a franchisee, tap into your franchise’s home office for additional support. Most franchises are more than helpful in times of crisis. From providing access to cash to assisting with client communications and even offering guidance in the rebuilding effort, a franchise can open doors and provide guidance to help restart your business quickly.
Rather than wait until disaster strikes to find out what kind of disaster coverage your business has, call your insurance agent today. Most business insurance policies cover the company for liability and personal property but not for lost time or the financial impact from a business interruption. Schedule a time to review all of your business insurances and investigate not only the loss insurance but also what it may cost in the event of a partial or complete rebuild. Do you have enough insurance to replace everything in your business at today’s costs should you need to? Secondly, does your business have business interruption insurance? Interruption insurance will provide income for your business while you are unable to operate the company. Payments can even cover salaries for your employees so you can continue to pay them while you rebuild. Keep a separate file of insurance documents and contact information outside your business so you can easily access the policies and start making calls.
Preparing for a disaster will help you and your small business recover more quickly and efficiently and increase the chances of business survival.
To learn more about how to prepare for disaster and ensure business continuity talk with a Fiducial Advisor by calling 866-FIDUCIAL or visit the website at www.Fiducial.com.