Prepare Your Business for Disaster

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From 15 to 40 percent of businesses fail following a natural or manmade disaster. Getting your business back in operation after a disaster often depends on emergency planning done today. A commitment to planning will help support employees, customers, the local community, the local economy and even our nation. It also protects your business investment and gives your operation a better chance for survival.

Business continuity and crisis management may be complex issues, depending on the industry and the size and scope of your business. Planning must account for all hazards, so plan in advance to manage any emergency situation. Know what kinds of emergencies and natural disasters are most common in the area where you operate

Continuity of Operations Planning. Carefully assess your business functions, both internally and externally, to determine the staff, materials, procedures and equipment that are essential to keep the business operating. This will include:

  •  Identifying suppliers, shippers, resources and other businesses that you must interact with.
  •  Planning what you will do if your business, plant or store is inaccessible.
  •  Planning for payroll continuity.
  •  Identifying an emergency planning team.
  •  Defining crisis management procedures and individual responsibilities.
  •  Coordinating with others.

Emergency Planning. Determine what your employees and co-workers will need to recover after a disaster. Plan ways to communicate with employees before, during and after a disaster. Identify employees with disabilities that may require special assistance and develop strategies to address their needs. Encourage all employees to develop and maintain a portable kit customized to meet their personal needs, such as essential medications. It should also include portable emergency communications devices, important records and emergency supplies.

Use common sense and available information to determine if there is immediate danger. Some disasters will require employees, customers and visitors to leave the workplace immediately. Develop an evacuation plan that includes:

  • A system for knowing who is in the building, including customers and visitors.
  • A chain of command for authorizing evacuation.
  • Designees to shut down critical operations and lock the doors.
  • Maps with clearly identified entrance and exit points.
  • Dual exit routes from all locations within the facilities.
  • Emergency lighting and warning systems.
  • Designated assembly site and system for accounting for all individuals.
  • Plan for people with disabilities or limited English proficiency who may need help getting out.

Talk to your people. One of the best methods of assuring your company’s recovery is to provide for your employee’s wellbeing. Communicate with your employees before, during and after a disaster.

Practice what you plan to do during a disaster. Just as your business changes over time, so should your plan. Walk-through drills will help you prepare. Promote family and individual preparedness among employees by encouraging them to review LSU AgCenter Are You Ready publications or FEMA’s Preparing Makes Sense bulletin.

Develop a crisis communication plan to specify how you will communicate with employees, local authorities and others during and after a disaster. Name a spokesperson to be in charge of communications to staff and to the public. Remember that after a disaster, you and your employees may require special support to recover and maintain mental and physical well-being.

Protect Your Investment. Take steps to safeguard your company and secure your physical assets. Begin by reviewing your insurance coverage. Insufficient insurance coverage can lead to major financial loss if your business is damaged, destroyed or interrupted for a period of time. Insurance policies differ, so check with your provider to confirm specifics of your coverage. Consider additional insurance, such as business interruption, flood or earthquake.

Plan for extended disruption of utility service and telecommunications during and after a disaster. Know how to turn off utilities, and consult with service providers to identify potential alternatives or backup options. Decide in advance what you will do if your building is unusable. Do you have a backup location, or can some of your staff work from home?

Take steps to protect your physical assets. Prepare an emergency supply kit and create a list of inventory and equipment for insurance purposes.

Disasters may damage or destroy important equipment. Secure your equipment by:

  •  Conducting a room-by-room walk-through to identify equipment that needs to be secured.
  •  Elevating files, equipment and valuable inventory off the floor in case of flooding.
  •  Moving or storing equipment, furniture, personal belongings and appliances on an upper level of multi-story buildings in the event of flooding. Or place equipment on concrete blocks at least 12 inches above the projected flood elevation.
  • Attaching equipment and cabinets to walls or other stable furnishings.
  • Placing heavy or breakable objects on low shelves
  • Moving computer workstations away from large windows.

Protect your data and information technology systems. Are computers up off the floor, away from chemicals, windows and other potentially damaging situations? Create an inventory of technology equipment and supplies, including computer hardware, software and peripherals. Include details that will make possible replacement easier, and document who provides hourly computer service. Back up all important computer programs and files, and keep them in a secure, off-site location. A duplicate copy in a damaged building won’t help, so determine a safe, off-site location to store a backup or put the files on small portable drives that can be taken wherever you go. Do these backups include all the essential records your company would need to get up and running again?

Plan to update your business continuity and disaster preparedness plan when situations change, or at least annually. Schedule a date each year to review and update your plan. Share your plan with employees, customers, suppliers, contractors, vendors, neighboring and other community businesses and others. Let them know how your plan provides peace of mind and encourage them to prepare for potential disasters.

For additional preparation information refer to:

Preparing Your Home
Preparing Your Family
Preparing to Evacuate

Reference: Extension Disaster Information Network. (2010). Ready Business: Developing a business continuity and disaster preparedness plan for your business: Instructors guide.

5/13/2011 8:44:19 PM
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