Reacting to a natural disaster or emergency not only means ensuring the immediate safety of employees, but also planning how the business will continue to function in the aftermath. Even if your business is not located in an area that is a likely target for a natural or manmade disaster, you need to be prepared for the unexpected with a comprehensive business continuation plan.
Limiting the amount of time your business is closed after an emergency situation is crucial; according to a 2006 survey by Harris Interactive, about 51 percent of companies said their customers would tolerate only up to two hours of unplanned down time.
After you’ve made plans to ensure the safety of your employees, Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers the following advice to help keep your business operating and meeting your customer’s needs in the wake of a disaster:
- Consider the different types of disasters—fire, flood, tornado, etc.—that can occur and how your business would respond differently to being displaced for a week, a month, or longer.
- Determine alternate locations for your business to operate if you are displaced from your current building. This could mean enabling employees to work from home or finding an alternate location for your office.
- Identify essential staff who are core to the operations of the business and keep a list of their phone numbers (home, work, pager, cell) and e-mail addresses that can be accessed by employees from several locations (home, Internet, etc.).
- Devise an emergency communications plan that outlines how your business will communicate with employees, customers, vendors and other key external contacts in the days following a disaster.
- Contact vendors/suppliers to confirm their emergency response plan procedures. Be prepared to use alternate vendors for essential supplies and equipment. Have your back-up equipment kept in good working condition.
- Have an up-to-date inventory of your assets. Review your insurance policies to ensure that you have adequate coverage for items you cannot afford to lose. A standard policy may not cover business interruption losses.
- Keep duplicates of personnel, payroll, payables and receivables and other essential records at an off-site location. Regularly make back-up copies of important computer files.
- Establish a succession of management for the company. Determine who will manage the company if key leaders are unavailable.
For more advice you can trust and information you need to know on keeping your company in business following an emergency or natural disaster, go to www.bbb.org.