If the year 2020 and the arrival of COVID-19 taught business owners around the world anything, it was to expect the unexpected. A year that started normally was turned upside down when many companies had to close their doors or turn to a remote workforce to make ends meet. This wake-up call made the smartest management teams realize the importance of a business continuity plan.
This detailed strategy is designed to outline the dangers and potential issues that a catastrophic event could cause and how the company can recover from them. There should be a plan for every kind of emergency, from cybercrime to a terrorist attack. A business continuity plan should also be made for natural disasters as every part of our country has its share of threats, and you never know when a storm will strike. Let’s look at the ins and outs of this plan.
Prepare for the Worst
To come up with a business continuity plan, you first have to understand the types of risks that you may be facing. Create a list of weather phenomena in your area and rank each item according to its likeness to occur. Then start to think about the type of damage that disaster would cause.
Don’t limit this to only potential physical damage but also the financial impact that your business could take. Along with the why, think about the how. How long would it take to recover? Is your business financially sound enough to last while you pick up the pieces?
Reach out to local police and fire departments and ask for their recommendations should a potential storm occur. Ask them about the best numbers to call in the case of an emergency and appoint at least one person within your business to be the one tasked with reaching out to emergency response teams if necessary. Every person that is part of the recovery team should have clearly defined duties, and if they don’t feel comfortable performing them, another employee should be selected.
Training for During the Storm
Now that you understand the risks, you need to get your staff up to date on what to do when the disaster does occur. The final plan should be shared with all employees and be a part of new hire orientation, so no one is left in the dark. This plan will include who to report to if a disaster does occur and where they should go or evacuate to for their safety. Remind everyone of the importance of staying away from windows and glass doors.
Even if a storm never comes, this is a good time to have the facilities team go around the building to ensure that all safety equipment is prepped and ready to go. This includes verifying that all fire protection systems are in working order and there are enough fire extinguishers spread throughout the building. If you have water heaters and gas tanks in the building, have them raised to avoid potential water damage. First aid kids should also be inspected and placed in clear and obvious locations.
A disaster has a way of bringing opportunistic criminals who want to take advantage of people and businesses out of the woodwork when everyone else is too busy or scared to pay attention. With that in mind, as part of your preparation, update the technology around the office, especially the computers and backup servers. Verify that the information within is encrypted and password protected so hackers cannot steal corporate or customer data during the turmoil.
Plans for Returning to Work
Your business continuity plan should also involve steps for what should occur once the storm has passed. Do not let any personnel enter the building until it has been cleared by emergency responders. You may also need a professional to come in to drain excess water, fix mold issues, or whatever the damage may be. For small businesses that do not have the funds to hire an expert, the Small Business Administration may be able to help with financial aid.
When it is safe to return, management should take photos of the damage and document any losses for the insurance company. Before you can ask the insurance company for funds to recuperate what you lost, you will need to show proof that your business was damaged. Providing this evidence will also expedite the process, so you get the money you need as fast as possible.
If the unfortunate were to happen and your physical office was completely wiped out so bad that it becomes uninhabitable, it is a smart idea to have a contingency plan so your employees can continue their work. This plan can involve a secondary office or the ability for the team to work remotely until you find a new permanent location. You can start this process early by providing the staff with laptops and putting all of your programs and services on the cloud so they can be used and operated from anywhere.
No business owner wants to think about their company getting hit or damaged by a natural disaster, but hoping it will never happen is not the answer. By assembling a business continuity plan, you can properly and safely restore your business and get back to work.