Have you ever considered how a human-caused, natural or public health disaster could impact your business, your employees or your customers? Far too often, such events slow or even halt business operations, and according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), almost 40 percent of small businesses never reopen their doors after closing due to disaster.
There is no single best method to respond to a natural or human-caused crisis, but experts agree that a well-planned disaster recovery approach can be the difference between survival or bankruptcy. Planning for an emergency in advance as opposed to reacting in the moment can lessen the impact of the emergency on your business and personnel.
Are you ready to handle any catastrophic event in the shortest response time possible? Below we’ve compiled a list of four tips to help you successfully manage any threat.
1. Identify Potential Threats
Different regions are prone to different natural disasters, so researching recent wildfires, floods, earthquakes or hurricanes in your area, including the time of year they occurred and how other businesses were impacted by each can be a good foundation for your emergency management plan.
In addition to understanding the potential for natural disasters, it’s necessary to prepare for the possibility of a human-caused crisis, like a bomb threat or active shooter situation. While active shooter events aren’t a new occurrence, data shows they’re becoming more frequent in the U.S. According to FBI statistics, an average of 6.4 active shooter events happened each year in the U.S. between 2000 and 2006. From 2007 to 2013, that average jumped to 16.4, and from 2014 to 2015 it climbed to 20.
- Conduct informational interviews with local business owners to gather insights on what type of crisis they experienced, where they were most impacted and the level of response taken.
- Assess your risks. Knowing what could happen in the event of an emergency, where is your business most vulnerable and what assets are most important to protect.
- Meet with your insurance company to understand what your policy covers and learn about additional coverage options, if appropriate.
2. Create a Written Disaster Recovery Communications Plan
Advance planning helps minimize your response time, so make the effort to consider which disasters could threaten your business and how to best react, with the goal of making your plan usable in a crisis. Try to keep it to one or two pages so that it can be referenced quickly in an emergency. Examples of what your plan should cover include:
- Ensure your plan includes a system for warning employees about crises and communicating with them. Tools like the Regroup Mass Notification platform make it easy to reach team members, wherever they are, during emergencies. At a moment’s notice, Regroup’s Mass Notification system can reach thousands of people with easy 2-tap messaging from any desktop or mobile device. Make sure the notification system you choose allows for seamless integration with existing communication channels simultaneously – social media, websites, digital signage and PA systems.
- Identify your audience to more effectively and proactively communicate the type of information each segment needs. The audience will be dependent on business size and type, but generally the audience will include employees and possibly their families, active clients, vendors, media outlets, government officials or community groups.
- Define employee roles during a disaster and share expected responsibilities with appropriate stakeholders. Identify members of senior management who will act as the crisis communications team so your organization can act and speak as one. Don’t forget to identify a first aid team that is trained in first aid and CPR so they can assist if needed before medical personnel arrive. Remember to also record personal contact details for all relevant stakeholders.
3. Develop a Business Continuity Plan
Keeping your business operating as you respond and recover from a disaster or emergency situation can be a challenge if you don’t plan ahead. Here are some must-haves for your plan:
- Create a checklist of all of the office jobs needed for the company to continue functioning post-disaster, noting where they would relocate to and how soon these roles would need to be operational. Also take inventory of necessary office equipment such as computers and telephones; including listing the crucial supporting equipment like servers and software.
- Plan for alternate office space by researching several relocation alternatives for your business in the event of a disaster. Start by working with a local real estate agent who will be able to provide a list of vacant office spaces.
- In lieu of an alternate office location, establish and communicate a plan for employees to telecommute until office functionality is restored.
4. Conduct a Disaster Recovery Communications Plan Audit
After your plan is drafted, frequently test it to find any areas needing improvement. At this stage it’s crucial to prepare and train your team for disaster by walking them through your plan.
- Conduct scheduled and surprise emergency drills using emergency preparedness technology like the Regroup Mass Notification platform to pre-program test messages into your communications platform and measure employee response time.
- Role-play the procedures in your plan and do it regularly so that your team is comfortable with each step. Disasters, like active shooter scenarios, evolve quickly and are unpredictable so be sure to practice different variations during role play; including everyone who would be involved in safeguarding the organization and its members during a real-life crisis.
- After each drill, hold a debrief session with the team to identify weaknesses and discuss how improvements can be made. Remember to include any updated procedures into subsequent versions of the crisis plan and clearly communicate these changes with team members.
Planning for the Future
Disaster can strike your business at any time, and not having a plan, or not clearly communicating your plan, can lead to a disorganized response with potential harm to employees, facilities, equipment or operations.
A well-thought out emergency preparedness plan not only helps you take control of a stressful situation and it’s the best way to prepare for the unexpected while protecting your business and employees from harm. To learn how to better prepare for the next emergency, request a demo.