Business disaster prepared

Protecting your business, employees and customers during a time of crisis can determine if your business reopens its doors afterward. Though each situation is unique, any business can be better prepared if it plans carefully, puts emergency procedures in place and practices for emergencies of all kinds.

Emergency procedures should be part of an all-inclusive disaster plan, which you need to update regularly. Keep a copy of your disaster plan at an off-site location.

Who and what to include in your emergency procedures

Some things are vital to running your business. And you need to protect them.

For employees:

  • Identify an internal shelter in the event that authorities tell you to "shelter in place," or stay put
  • Document each employee's function and emergency contact information
  • Decide who is in charge when regular managers are unavailable
  • Create a phone tree and designate individuals who will initiate the communication process
  • Establish a single spokesperson to speak to the media and the public
  • Train your employees on the disaster plan and review it with them regularly

For customers:

  • Identify the likelihood that customers will be present if a disaster strikes
  • Keep a copy of your customer records off-site
  • Have an alternate worksite from which to communicate to customers as you rebuild

For suppliers:

  • Maintain a contact list of all your suppliers
  • Find out how they plan to supply you if the supplier experiences a disaster
  • Maintain a list of alternate suppliers

For equipment:

  • Maintain an inventory of all equipment used by your business
  • Keep a maintenance schedule for all equipment, as well as manufacturer and service contact information for each

For property:

  • Make sure your facility meets all local building and fire codes
  • Know where utility shutoffs are located and how to operate them

For records:

  • Document all processes that make your business run, from answering the phones, to tracking finances, to distributing your product or service
  • Develop a schedule for backing up all computer records
  • Keep current copies of all paper and computer files off-site and accessible

For insurance:

  • Coverage can mean the difference between reopening after a disaster strikes and having to close your doors. Meet regularly with an insurance agent to ensure you have adequate coverage and knowledge of how to quickly file a claim.
  • Consider a policy that will reimburse you for business disruptions, in addition to physical losses.
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