Natural and man-made calamities are a fact of life. Preparing for them however, is totally up to you. Thankfully, being prepared for a disaster is simple enough. Kelly Gregorio teaches us the smart way for small businesses to survive emergencies. – Art
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No one wants to even imagine a natural disaster impacting their lives, homes or business. However, natural disasters do happen. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports that after a natural calamity nearly 40% of affected businesses never open their doors again.
While no one can avoid a natural disaster, the better prepared your business is, the better chances you have of staying out of that statistic. Take the time to put an official plan in place while the sun is shining so that if the undesirable happens, all you’ll have to do is follow suit.
Zero in locally
Hurricanes, snow storms, earthquakes, flooding and brush fires are true to their locations; be sure to educate yourself on all of the disasters that are common in your area. This information will be key to tailoring your emergency plan.
Reach out to your local Chamber of Commerce and see what preparedness tips they can offer. Also, get to know the police that patrol your business. It’s better to make introductions before an emergency hits, and local law enforcement might be able to extend some working knowledge on disaster protocol for your specific location.
Understand your options
The first step in preparing for a natural disaster is imagining different scenarios that might play out, and then come up with helpful solutions and/or alternatives. How will you be able to keep your business going? What parameters are you going to need to put into place?
In addition to the imaginary, also check in with reality in the form of your insurance policy. What does your coverage detail? What forms would you need to file a claim? While it might cost more, consider coverage that will protect you from both physical loss and disrupted time. Understanding the inner workings of your coverage will save you time if a natural disaster does strike because the sooner you can get assistance, the sooner you can get your business up and running again.
Pat yourself on the back if you already regularly back up your business’s information. Now, scratch your head if you keep those back-up devices (i.e. external hardware) on site. What good will back up hardware be if they too become damaged?
It is important to back up important documents (i.e. accounting, customer lists, employee contact information, inventory and service provider lists) and keep them off site. Also, considering Mother Nature can sometimes kick off connectivity and electricity – keep hard copies off-site too.
Prepare your site and your employees
As you run through this portion of suggestions, think of a point person to share this knowledge with. Supervisors and responsible staff should act as a backup in case you aren’t present when disaster strikes. Preventative steps like checking water and gas lines for secure connections are key. Your point person should also be clued in on the location of utility shutoffs and how to use them properly.
Other procedures are location specific:
- Routinely check your roof if your area experiences floods.
- Check your surrounding landscape if brush fires are common.
- Check to make sure your business’s decor (light fixtures, hung pictures, etc.) are properly secured if earthquakes are a possibility.
- Consider a safe room if your location is subject to hurricanes or tornados.
It is equally important to prepare your employees, who will be crucial in getting your business going again. Prepare an official on-site plan (where to take cover, emergency closing procedures, etc.). Provide your store front with the on-site essentials (water, first-aid, flashlights, battery operated radio, nonperishable food, a blanket etc.) Run through drills and post-disaster protocol with all of your employees to keep them safe and in the loop.
After you’ve detailed procedures for your business and employees, it’s time to consider your most valuable asset: your customers. How can your business continue to serve its customers after disaster strikes? Get back to the drawing board and play out some possible scenarios.
Consider purchasing a generator for on-site preparation or consider off-site locations (i.e. your home office or online) where business can still be conducted. Also, if your suppliers are local they might also be out of commission so make a list of alternative suppliers that you can turn to.
In case of emergency, the last thing you’ll want to deal with is the shocking realization that “I don’t know what to do about the business.” The key to surviving a natural disaster is having plans in place so you can pick your business up by its bootstraps, and keep on living.
What other ways can you prepare your business for the unexpected?
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