Do You Have An Emergency Preparedness Plan?
News of business closings and supply chain disruptions as a result of the COVID-19 health threat is a reminder that every business should have an emergency preparedness plan. Aside from the sudden and wholly unexpected virus outbreak, extreme weather conditions in the past few years have led to more intense natural disasters (tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and fires). Even if you are fortunate to live in an area where these occurrences are rare, your business is still susceptible to technology threats, such as malware and data theft.
Small businesses need an emergency preparedness plan just as much as do big corporations. Your plan should be as comprehensive as possible, addressing the full range of potential emergency situations that could affect your business, from minor disruptions such as power and network outages to full-scale disasters. Both the U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce provide more detailed information about how to prepare for various kinds of emergencies.
Your first concern in an emergency is to ensure everyone’s safety. You and your staff should be familiar with your building’s evacuation procedures for various types of events (e.g., fire, earthquake) and establish a safe place outside where you all will meet if you need to leave. In the case of dangerous weather or another situation where it is not safe to leave the building, you should identify an appropriate place of refuge in the building and have it stocked with emergency supplies.
Also critical is to establish a communications plan and protocols. Along with having quick access to local emergency numbers (e.g., fire, police, ambulance, paramedics), staff should know whom to call in the event of emergency and who will make decisions about work schedules, possible off-site work options, and when to return to the office. Agree in advance on how messages will be conveyed to staff (e.g., email, text, intranet, phone calls), including a land line number they can call in the event of a power or network outage.
Once you have developed your preparedness plan, present it to all staff and have them review it periodically, along with conducting any necessary training or practice evacuations. In addition, be sure to have copies of important documents and back-ups of critical data in a protected, secure place and an emergency fund, so you can get your business up and running again as soon as possible following an emergency.