Disasters often come out of nowhere, and even in the event you have advanced warning it is often not time enough to prepare yourself for the fall out. Whether it’s a severe storm, workplace accident or economic crisis, it's important to have a disaster plan in place to ensure your business survives the worst. Resilience is key, but preparation is vital.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), about 40 percent of small businesses don't reopen following a disaster. To make sure you're prepared for the worst, you need to implement a disaster recovery plan that is thorough, well-known and accessible in a crisis. Here are six things you need to do to weather any storm.
Have a solid communications plan
During an emergency situation, communication is key. You need to be able to tell your employees what's going on and how to handle it, so creating a plan in advance is important. This could include having an 800-number for employees to call for instructions.
Redundancy is also important. If the phone lines or internet connectivity go down, you should still have ways to communicate directly or indirectly. Consider keeping short-range devices like walkie-talkies on hand. You might also align your business with a local school district so that if your employees see that school is closed for weather-related reasons on the news, they don't have to come in.
Protect your assets
It's important to protect your assets before a disaster strikes. This means purchasing insurance, whether that means relying on additional private insurance or taking advantage of public programs like FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program, it's important to prepare for financial recovery after the disaster ceases.
Not all assets are physical, either. Even something as simple as a power outage could compromise the security of your building and your important data. To avoid this, create a plan that doesn't rely solely on solutions located on premise. [Protect your data when disaster strikes with these steps.]
Know when to close or stay open
This goes beyond just making a spur of the moment decision. Establishing a formula in advance can help you determine the best course of action. Some situations may be no-brainers, like a widespread weather disaster or a local active shooter situation, in which the obvious decision is to close.
However, if you plan in advance, you may be able to remain open during minor emergencies or relocate to an alternative location out of harm's way. It all comes down to preparation and understanding what level of risk you can handle.
Have a plan for helping others
Even during a disaster, there's a chance for your business to thrive – or even help others in need – if you plan accordingly. While taking advantage of disaster victims is never permissible (through methods such as price gouging,) benevolent actions in times of crisis can have a positive impact on your brand.
Charitable acts of giving, opening up facilities to shelter displaced people and volunteer efforts are a great way to help your community, as well as build your brand as a responsible and caring one. Doing the right thing during a disaster can pay off in the long term with positive reputation and increased business from those grateful for your community involvement.
Watch out for little things
Contrary to popular advice, you should sweat the small stuff. Of course, it's important to plan for the worst, but even little things can spell disaster. Things like power outages, local school emergencies (in which your employees may need to rush to pick up their children) or ISP router failure can actually be devastating to a small business.
To avoid these disasters, or at least mitigate their impact, be sure to consider how they would affect you if they were to occur, what possible causes of such a disaster exist, and the best way to insulate yourself or create "plan B's" in the event they do come to pass.
Practice your plan
Having a plan of action is an important first step, but practicing that plan is just as important. That way, you can make sure your employees are on the same page and that, in the event of an emergency, everything will run as smoothly as possible.
Practicing your disaster plan requires you to have the resources and technology in place to activate your plan on the fly without disrupting the entire business. Your staff should also be apprised of the plan well enough to enact it without instruction should disaster strike.
Additional reporting by Brittney Morgan.