It can be as simple as a grid failure that leaves you without electrical power for a week. Or it can be an act of nature or man that flattens or floods your whole operation. Whatever the cause, if your business is hit by a disaster, you need to have a strategy that protects your people, your property and your profits. So, take the time to establish a disaster plan for your business.
Assess your vulnerability and needs. This is the first step. There are tools available to help you identify potential problem areas and, most of all, solutions.
Protect your people. Your employees are your most valuable assets. Before a disaster strikes:
* Have a first-aid kit on hand. Provide first aid and CPR training to key employees. Many “First Responder” and other community-based training programs are available at no cost.
* Have emergency supplies on hand. These should include a battery-powered radio, bottled water, a three-day supply of non-perishable food, flashlight and extra batteries, and a whistle to signal for help. Also include an extra cell hone charger.
* Identify one or two contact people, along with instructions on how to report in if people become separated.
* Establish a password-protected page on your website, an e-mail alert, or a call-in voice recording to communicate and provide updated instructions.
* Designate an out-of-town phone number where employees can leave an “I’m okay” message.
* Set up a fire-drill type escape plan, complete with a designated rallying point away from the business. Make sure everyone knows the location of emergency exits.
* Remember that employees will need to attend to their own families and homes.
Protect your property, including information, equipment and facilities:
* Install and regularly check fire extinguishers and smoke detectors. Make sure everyone knows where the extinguishers are located and how to use them.
* Make sure your premises are up to safety and fire code.
* Back up your computer files at least once a week. Store them off the premises, preferably in a safe deposit box at your bank.
* Keep records of all other important documents, such as contracts, customer contact information, loan and other financial papers in a “disaster briefcase” that you can lay your hands on quickly if disaster strikes.
* Keep a list of the five “most important” people to contact in your wallet or purse.
* Create a list of inventory and equipment, including computer hardware and software for insurance purposes.
* Elevate valuable inventory and machinery off the ground floor in case of flooding.
Protect your profits. It is crucial to either continue your business or be able to open the doors again as soon as possible:
* Make sure all your insurance is current, and not just on your equipment and buildings. Talk to your property/casualty agent about flood insurance and business interruption coverage that can help cover your payroll and operating expenses and get you back up to full productivity as soon as possible.
* Do not try to open for business too soon. First, give employees time to attend to their own needs in the event of a major disaster. Second, it is better to take a few days or even weeks to assess how to proceed. Trying to start up too soon can be costly and accomplish nothing.
* lf practical for your business, consider the advantages of laptop computers. If you are forced to evacuate your business, a laptop computer could contain enough information to continue working for several days or weeks, if not indefinitely.
* Decide in advance what you will do if your building becomes unusable. Be prepared to move the business to a secure location temporarily, even if it is only a warehouse that can serve as temporary headquarters.
You cannot predict when a disaster will strike. However, you can still be prepared when it does by following these basic steps. In the end, they can save time, profits and even lives. –JRIngrisano
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