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Lack of planning contributes to a surprising statistic: Getting up and running again quickly is crucial for business survival.
In recent years, small businesses have been affected by Hurricane Sandy hitting the East Coast, a tornado in Joplin, Mo. Even a small storm that causes a power outage can grind your business to a temporary halt. Here are 11 actions small business owners should take to plan for disaster: Start with a checklist.
A checklist should include sections on communications, data, employees, operations and safety. Learn the specific types of hazards your business is likely to face and what to do during and immediately after these disasters.
Learn about the warning systems used in your community, and designate locations for you and your employees to seek shelter if necessary.
This will warn you 24 hours a day about natural disasters, other hazards like chemical or oil spills, and temporary outages in your area. Get help from disaster experts. Experts may have recommendations to make your business safer, such as installing shutters to protect windows and inexpensive emergency lights that turn on during power outages.
Make sure your small business is properly protected by business insurance and check into business continuity insurance as well, the Red Cross recommends.
Create an emergency kit. You, your employees and customers could get stuck in your business unexpectedly due to extreme weather or even a freak occurrence like a hazardous materials spill from a tipped truck. Your kit should include a can opener, flashlights and extra batteries, first-aid supplies and a first-aid reference book.
Designate a recovery team. Choose a small group of employees who will take action in the immediate aftermath of an incident. Assign an employee to be crisis manager and choose a backup crisis manager. Assign other employees to work on the recovery team. Meet with these employees to clearly outline their roles and responsibilities.
Create an employee communication tree, provide copies to employees and store an extra copy outside your business. Offer multiple modes of communication, including email, phone calls and texting, and consider keeping battery operated walkie-talkies as backup.
Gather emergency numbers, including your small business insurance company, electrician, plumber, customer list and media contacts, and store that information offsite.
Also set up programmable call forwarding for your business phones in case a disaster prevents you from reaching the office. This way, you can remotely forward calls to another phone. ID critical business functions.
Assign each business function a priority: Decide how much downtime is acceptable for each function.
For example, a critical business function of a custom packaging company would be fulfilling orders for boxes. A critical business function for a small credit union would be opening new checking accounts for customers. Plan to protect your data. This will protect you not only in a natural disaster or fire but also if you fall victim to a cyber attack.
Protecting your data is crucial because 90 percent of businesses that suffer a data center outage lasting more than a week never reopen.
To set up a BDR, look for a service provider that has a solid reputation, hour support and the ability to grow with your business, tech consultant Larry Alton recommends on Entrepreneur. Make sure your tax and financial records are stored safely.
This record will help facilitate the insurance claims process. Store this record safely so you can access it from outside your business. Get ready for recovery. What help will be available to your business in the wake of disaster?
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