While we can’t predict what disasters or emergencies are looming in the future, business owners can prepare for the unexpected to a certain degree. If company leaders ignore this fact, then failing to plan could be a plan for failure.
Besides minimizing the impact of something like toxic wastewater contamination on your company’s bottom line, having a business disaster or emergency preparedness plan is something business acquirers love to see. Buyers are all about avoiding risk, and planning ahead can decrease some of the risk inherent in each business.
Ready.gov, a website the Federal Emergency Management Agency set up to help business owners prepare for emergencies, has an emergency plan template [PDF] where entrepreneurs can type in the necessary information and print/save.
If you prefer to create a document customized for your company instead of using FEMA’s template, consider addressing the following areas to plan for a natural disaster or an emergency.
Disaster Preparedness Team & Meetings
- Identify who will help you plan and manage a crisis.
- Choose who will be the spokesperson speaking on behalf of your business. Have an alternate as well.
- Names and contact info of in the community that can help you plan your emergency strategy and work with you in the event of a crisis. Examples include city contacts, neighboring businesses, spouses, etc.
- How often you’ll review and update the plan.
Evacuation & Shelter-in-Place Plans
- Evacuation plans in the event of an accident or fire.
- Consider how to avoid gridlock or confusion with neighboring businesses.
- Post building and site maps around the workplace.
- Check that exits are clearly marked.
- Decide how often you will practice the evacuation and check on the above items.
- Identify the assembly site and who will be responsible for checking on , plus an alternate.
- Shelter in place in the event of a spill or leak outside of your business.
- Pinpoint other disasters that have the potential of affecting your business. A few include earthquake, tsunami, hurricane, tornado, drought, flooding, power outage, and toxic contamination in or around your business or its suppliers.
- Potential locations your company can operate from.
- Your insurance provider, policy number, and contact information.
- In order of priority list the critical , staff, and procedures your business needs in order to continue doing business, as well as recover from a disaster.
- List of vendors, suppliers, and contractors for each division in the company. Include two backups in case your go-to people are affected by the same emergency.
- How you will communicate the emergency plan to employees.
- How you will communicate with them during an emergency.
- You could create a calling tree, where employees are contacted and are then responsible for calling five designated employees who also have team members assigned to call. This allows you to quickly reach your workforce about any pending workplace issues.
Information & Records
- How you plan to protect your compute hardware and software.
- Do you have backup computers? Where are they? Where is your information backed up to, and how will you access it?
- Designated person responsible for backing up critical records – payroll, accounting, client records, etc., and how often records need to be backed up
- Location(s) of backups of emergency preparedness plan, site map, insurance policy, back account records, etc.
- Your backup servers should be located in regions removed from where your business operates. This will prevent damage done by a localized event. If your backup servers are in the same building where your business is located, you could be at risk.
- Emergency contact information for each employee in digital and hardcopy formats.
- Consider who could be at your business when an emergency occurs – employees, customers, emergency responders, tour group, etc.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Having a plan in place is great but if you don’t take the time to practice it, chances are good that in the event of an emergency your plan will fail. Even though practicing could impactin the short term, it will ensure that in the event of something horrific happening, your business will survive.
Private business owners face a certain set of realities and risks. Here’s how to build and evolve your business into one that isto you, your employees, and potential buyers.