Summer is the time of year when almost anything can happen, including wild weather. In fact, between June and October, the climate can often be less predictable than during the cooler months. It can also pack a greater punch. This is why businesses can and should plan for natural disasters ahead of time. Doing so may allow companies to ride out a storm more easily or resume operations more rapidly in the aftermath of severe weather. While preparing for natural disasters sounds like a daunting task to many business owners, it is easier than you might think.
When putting together a disaster preparedness plan, companies should consider a few key items: the possibility of structural damage, how to continue critical company operations during or after an event, and when and how to implement a temporary change of office location.
The planning process that addresses each of these issues should occur long before a crisis strikes. Furthermore, several copies of the plan should be printed and stored in multiple locations that are easily accessible, in case the office is not. In addition, business owners should frequently reassess emergency operations arrangements to ensure they remain up to date.
Some additional issues to consider:
Protect important assets
First and foremost, protect the critical financial, client and employee records that keep your business afloat. To prevent physical damage to, or loss of company files, ensure both electronic and paper records are backed up and stored in secure, offsite facilities that specialize in protecting data from the elements.
Make sure employees are familiar with the plan
Be sure all employees are briefed on their roles in a crisis situation. Identify which staff members will be critical in an emergency response effort. It is also important to determine whether employees can and should work remotely during an emergency.
Plan for both internal and external communications
Remember that in a crisis situation, employees’ first instinct may be to check for pertinent information regarding company closures or impacts to their schedules. Have a proactive plan for distributing information to employees. Make sure employee email lists are up to date. Online staff alerts should be posted in a pre-determined, central location and all interested parties should be made aware of the location prior to an event. Also, if possible, use more than one communication method. For example, if email is a company’s primary communication tool, consider setting up a phone alert line so that employees can call in and listen to a recorded message that is regularly updated. Similar robust communications systems need to be in place for customers. If needed, a media spokesperson should also be identified to inform the public, including customers and employees, of the status of business operations.
Make sure company property is protected
Just like a homeowner, it is important for business leaders to review and fully understand the extent of their insurance policies for all business facilities and property, including automobiles. This ensures companies are adequately covered in the event of a disaster. Keep copies of policies and relevant contact information offsite in case of emergency.
Severe weather (or other potential disasters) can be frightening. However, some of that fear can be diminished when a disaster preparedness plan is in place. Taking the time to address the likely issues that accompany service disruptions caused by Mother Nature will pay off when the unexpected arrives.
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 30 years, provides an array of human resources and business solutions designed to help improve business performance.