How to Prepare Your Business for Natural Disasters


Business continuity experts receive a handsome paycheck because they are paid to give advice on how to prevent natural disasters from disrupting your business, or in a worst-case scenario, shutting it down altogether. Fortunately, much of their advice is common sense, and there are cost saving steps you can take to get ready for a natural disaster now for less than what even business continuity experts would tell you to do.

Create an Emergency Response Plan

The government says every family should have a plan on how to evacuate their home in case of a fire and plan for a meeting location if they take different exits, while making plans on who gets the baby and who rescues the pets. Your business needs to apply the same principle to its operations.

How do you respond to a fire? When will you get fire extinguishers, and how do you evacuate if need be? If there is a flood, who will try to retrieve valuables like cash in the safe and who supervises the safe evacuation of the building? If there is a robbery, what is the plan for how to react? What are your employees to do if there is a tornado? They need to know where it is safe to shelter and the rules for handling visitors. If your employees have a plan, then you can hold practice drills to prevent a disaster from becoming a nightmare.

Your emergency response plan must include a communication policy, such as having a way to reach all employees and verify they are OK after an evacuation and inform those who aren’t on site where to meet so management can talk about what comes next after a natural disaster.

Have a Generator Ready

Power disruptions, whether due to a rolling blackout on the hottest summer day or longer term disruption after a major storm, wreak havoc on your business. While families can get by on flashlights and propane stoves, it can be difficult to sell items to customers if the credit card machine and ATM are both lacking power. The solution is to have generators on hand and ready to turn on when the power is out.

Having a generator on standby doesn’t have to cost a fortune. You can always buy used generators online instead of buying a brand new one. You should practice connecting them to the business’ power system and understand the load it can handle. Decide in advance what is mission critical like the company’s payment processors and freezers full of perishable food and what can be left off.

Backup IT Solutions

One of the attractions of working from the cloud is that you can still work on presentations, access critical files and even run your payroll system from any workstation that can connect to the cloud and uses the right credentials. Small businesses should consider either hosting their website and mission critical system backups on the cloud if they don’t want to run everything on the cloud.

Insurance

Individuals need a large savings account or “emergency fund” to cover expenses in case of personal disasters like a job loss, car accident or other unforeseen event that interrupts one’s income or causes expenses to spike. Businesses should have a similar emergency fund, often called a retained earnings account. Yet savings don’t cover everything, which is why having the right insurance policy is essential. Does your business insurance pay for not only the building if it burns down but provide enough money to replace its contents, too?

If your business is located along a creek or near a body of water, you may want to have flood insurance. If your business can’t operate without restoring operations at the main headquarters, you should consider buying business interruption insurance.

Conclusion

Create an emergency response plan for the top emergencies your business could face: fire, flood, storm, break-in. Purchase generators now and learn how to get them and your business up and running when the power goes out. Arrange for backup IT solutions now so that a power outage doesn’t kill critical systems and your business with them. Have the right insurance in place now to protect your business when disaster strikes.

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