Whether in the form of a hurricane, tornado, fire or some other natural disaster, businesses that properly plan for these tragic events minimize the disruption and are more likely to resume operations and flourish than those that simply leave things to chance.
In order to prepare for unexpected business disruptions caused by a natural disaster, small business owners should conduct a thorough review of the company’s insurance policy, and also ask critical questions about their level of preparedness, such as:
What should be done if the company building or office space is damaged or destroyed by storm-force winds or water?
Where would the business operate in order to continue providing services to customers?
Would necessary resources, databases, contact information and other important items be available to adapt to a change in location or operations?
The answers to these questions and other similar concerns should be addressed BEFORE they happen. And they should not just take place once and then be forgotten. Business owners should re-address the issue annually, and keep all records and procedures in a disaster preparedness manual that is individually tailored to a specific business. Key points to keep in mind when developing or updating a plan or manual include:
- Critical file backup: Company files and data are the lifeline of a business. If the computer system or information contained in its files is destroyed, it can be extremely difficult to reconstruct important financial information, client databases or employee records. Having a secure, offsite facility that stores and protects this information will help make the recovery process more manageable.
- Essential and non-essential employees: Decide which employees are absolutely critical to the emergency response effort and which employees could better serve the company by working from home. Make sure employees are aware of their status and responsibilities during an emergency situation.
- Communications: A solid strategy must be put into place to ensure employees, families, service providers, contractors and the general public are all kept abreast of the situation. Traditional delivery methods may include implementing a call tree, email blast or advisory distributed to local media. As mentioned, some utility services, including electricity and conventional phone lines, may be interrupted for hours or even days. Backup communication methods under these circumstances could include cell phones or social media channels.
- Company spokesperson: A designated spokesperson should be assigned to handle communication to the public. This person should be aware of all of the pertinent details related to the business and serve as the single contact for any outside inquiries.
- Insurance: Review existing insurance policies on all business properties and facilities, including motor vehicles, to ensure adequate and appropriate coverage. Keep those policies in a safe, offsite location and have instructions for their use and access, including contact information, policy numbers, coverage periods and policy restrictions in the disaster preparedness manual.
- Strategic partnerships: After a disaster, the business that becomes operational first is in the position of being ready to serve existing customers and take on new ones while the competition continues to struggle. One of the best ways to ensure a swift recovery is to negotiate strategic partnerships with key trade-industry professionals including carpenters, plumbers, electricians and the like – before a natural disaster strikes. Contact information, location and area of expertise should be included in the disaster preparedness manual for each trade-industry partner.
In a disaster situation, it is not uncommon for employees to search for pertinent information about company closures, their paychecks or even job status. Being prepared to respond to questions from employees, customers and the news media is critical during a natural disaster.
If a comprehensive disaster plan is created and in place before disaster strikes, business owners are in a strong position to confidently handle and successfully manage the recovery process.
Eric Bonugli is a district manager and Kay Oder is a Certified Business Performance Advisor for Insperity located in the company’s Austin office. Insperity, a trusted advisor to America’s best businesses for more than 28 years, provides an array of human resources and business solutions designed to help improve business performance. Insperity® Business Performance Advisors offer the most comprehensive suite of products and services available in the marketplace. Insperity delivers administrative relief, better benefits, reduced liabilities and a systematic way to improve productivity through its premier Workforce Optimization® solution. Additional company offerings include Human Capital Management, Payroll Services, Time and Attendance, Performance Management, Organizational Planning, Recruiting Services, Employment Screening, Financial Services, Expense Management, Retirement Services and Insurance Services. Insperity business performance solutions support more than 100,000 businesses with over 2 million employees. With 2013 revenues of $2.3 billion, Insperity operates in 57 offices throughout the United States. For more information, call 800-465-3800 or visit http://www.insperity.com.