The months of August through October are widely considered to be the worst for natural disasters in the northern hemisphere. In an effort to help bring awareness to this fact and to help businesses prepare for potential disasters, FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Association) has named September as Disaster Preparedness Month. Take a minute and ask yourself if, when it comes to business, you are prepared.
When it comes to preparing for a disaster, especially a natural disaster, there are so many things you need to plan for and prep. Frankly, it can be overwhelming. We found that a good place to start is to prepare two aspects of your business: Your employees and your physical assets.
Tips for preparing your employees Many business owners view their employees as the most valuable assets. If a disaster strikes you will rely on them to not only execute any plans you have developed but to also help keep the business running. Unfortunately, if the disaster is big enough your employees will also be affected. With this in mind, you need to ensure that you prepare your staff as well as your business.
Here's four tips on how you can do that:
- Help your employees plan - It is a good idea to provide your employees with information and tips on how to prepare for a disaster and what they and their family should do during this time. There is a wealth of information on FEMA's Ready site to start with. Beyond that, you should also record contact numbers and if employees need any additional support.
- Develop a set of different plans - Disasters come in all sizes and varieties. You should be prepared for this with different plans as to what to do during an actual disaster. Most experts agree that creating an evacuation, shelter-in-place and lockdown plan will cover most scenarios. Regardless of the plan, there should be an identified safe location and information on how to get there.
- Implement a warning system - In order for your plans to be effective, employees need to know when to implement them. The easiest way to do this is to develop a warning system. It could be something as easy as an email, phone tree or texts. On top of that, ensure that the building's warning systems like fire alarms and detectors are working.
- Emergency supplies - If you are caught in a disaster and stuck inside your office, you are going to need supplies like water, food, blankets, communication devices and even first aid. Take the time to put together emergency supplies that can be easily accessed and will meet your immediate needs.
- Know all about your insurance coverage - In late June many businesses and homeowners in Calgary Canada, were heavily affected by floods. Many of these businesses went on to find out that their insurance didn't cover floods because they aren't common to the area. This is a perfect example of why you should review your insurance coverage. You should be careful to check what level of coverage you have and if you are insured for property damage. Then, check with your broker for any recommendations or suggestions.
- Assume utilities will be disrupted - During large-scale disasters you can be 100% sure that some, or all, utilities will be disrupted. You should take steps to mitigate the potential effects. For example, look into portable generators for power and gas powered heaters if necessary.
- Safeguard the building - There are many stories of businesses that when faced with disaster come out much better than their neighbors. Most attribute this to the fact that they took steps to prepare their physical location. This could be as simple as installing new fire alarms, detectors and even new entrance/exit doors. You should also take steps to safeguard systems - ensure that valuable equipment is secure from unauthorized access and that all safeguards are recorded in case rescue teams or an external party need access.
- Keep data and systems secure - Disasters may not physically affect your business. In fact, many disasters are now cyber based. It could be a hacker has managed to access your systems and has stolen or deleted all of your customer data, or a power surge takes out an integral server. You should take steps to ensure that your data and computer systems are secure from external and internal threats.