Within the past two months, we’ve seen horrific disasters that have resulted in loss of life and personal injury as well as significant property damage: the Boston Marathon bombing, the Oklahoma tornado, the Washington bridge collapse, and the Texas floods. While there may be little or nothing we can do to prevent some occurrences (remember that the hurricane season began on June 1), there are measures to take that will help keep you and your staff safe while protecting your business property.
Make a plan
Crafting your own disaster preparedness plan is a valuable exercise. It makes you think about the issues that concern your unique situation. Maybe your offices are on the fourth floor and you have a disabled worker who could need assistance getting to the ground floor if the power goes out and shuts down elevator access. Maybe your business has perishables that need ongoing refrigeration. Make sure your plan includes the following:
- Detail actions to take at the time of the disaster. How would you evacuate? What would you need to stay in place?
- Deal with data protection. While this should be an ongoing practice, make sure you can access your data following a disaster (keep your passwords, data key, and other access requirements somewhere other than your office or home, such as in the cloud and you remember how to get at your information). Also protect your valuable (and irreplaceable) papers by storing them in fireproof file cabinets. Consider using ziplock bags inside the cabinets to protect against water damage if the cabinets are breached.
- Review insurance coverage. Make sure to have the coverage you think you need (check the limits on your policy as well as what is and is not covered. You may need additional insurance, such as flood insurance or a terrorism rider.
- Think about your suppliers. While you may not experience a disaster, your vendors and suppliers might. Think what this would mean to you and make alternative plans.
Communicate and practice
While some businesses do take the time to create disaster recovery plans, they may fail to discuss them with staff or practice for emergencies.
- Explain your plans to employees.
- Practice. Remember the old school fire drill? It can be useful to simulate disaster responses that your staff should take if certain events occur.
Idea: Give each employee a distress safety whistle, which can be used to locate someone following a disaster. Make sure the whistle is easily accessible (e.g., worn on the same chain used for a company ID). Cost: Under $5 per whistle.
If disaster strikes
Put the practice of triage to use in your situation. Read my article Business Triage—Best Responses When Disaster Strikes.