Hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, floods, terrorism, computer viruses, robberies, fires, earthquakes, or illness—the list of possible disasters that could affect your small business just goes on and on. Are you prepared for emergency situations? Do you have contingency plans in place?
As the Boy Scouts say, “Be prepared.” Creating contingency plans for your business can give you peace of mind and can increase your chances of recovering from disasters.
Here are some things to consider during your disaster planning process:
1—Backup your data. Create a plan for regularly backing up your data and protecting the backup. Off-site storage is one solution. There are also online remote back up services available now. Include your budgets, business plans, client list, sales records, tax records, insurance information, loans and banking information, account numbers—everything you need to run your business. Keep important papers in a safety-deposit box, and copies at another safe location.
2—Consider the likely risks. What natural disasters are likely to occur in your area? If you are located in a flood plain, you need flood insurance. If you are in a high-crime area, you need extra security precautions. Thinking through possible “worst-case scenarios” can help you adequately address those issues beforehand.
3—Meet with your insurance rep and ask specifically what your coverage provides. Many people assume they have certain coverage when in fact, they don’t. Make sure you understand exactly what your policy covers and make sure your real risks are included.
4—Contact information: Keep current records for contacting clients, vendors, employees, competitors, neighboring business, and local officials. You want to include this information in your back-up data and make sure you can get to it.
5—Strategies: Determine how you will access your records, who you will call, and what you will need to do first. Write it down! The length of your plan will of course depend on the complexities of your particular business.
6—Review annually, or more often if necessary. Situations change and you need to make sure your plan stays current.
7—Learn about disasters. Do you know basic safety procedures for fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, or other emergency situations? Post these in your business, teach employees, and conduct drills.
8—Disaster supplies: First aid kits and fire extinguishers are necessary for everyone. You can build your own disaster supply kit tailored to your particular situation and location.
To help you with your disaster planning, here are some great online resources:
Open for Business This is very thorough guide, complete with downloadable forms, available here in pdf format.
FEMA Emergency Guide Federal Emergency Management Agency—the disaster professionals!
The American Red Cross has educational information on disaster planning on their website.