In our last article, September Is National Preparedness Month, we covered some of the steps that individuals, families, and communities can take to minimize the impact of emergencies and disasters.
Yet, many adults spend the majority of their waking hours at work. Thus, it is important to have business-specific emergency action plans, as well.
Below are some best practices and guidelines designed to shore up your small business’s disaster preparedness.
1. Identify the Most Likely Risks
According to Ready.gov, small businesses face numerous potential threats, including:
- Natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods
- Medical emergencies — from individual injuries to widespread illnesses
- Power outages, equipment failures, and other technological hazards
- Any number of physical, terrorist, chemical, or cyber-related attacks
After determining your business’s risk level for the above threats, you can move onto the next step.
2. Map Out Appropriate Responses
Most workplaces conduct routine fire drills, with the goal of having all employees meet at a predetermined location as quickly and orderly as possible.
Based on your small business’s risk exposure (outlined above), you might also need to develop appropriate responses to other types of emergencies. Fortunately, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has already developed small business toolkits for many common types of disasters, including:
For a complete list of these ready-made toolkits, click here.
3. Provide First Aid Training
When disaster strikes, it may be awhile before emergency medical technicians can arrive on the scene. As such, the earliest responders are often your co-workers.
The question is — does everyone on your team know how to administer CPR or use an automatic electronic defibrillator (AED)?
If not, the solution is simple.
4. Protect Critical Business Systems
If you keep all of your company’s important information in file cabinets or on local servers, there is always the risk that a fire could permanently destroy this data.
You can protect yourself by digitizing your records and placing them in the cloud. Even if you lose all your hardware, the information stays safe — so you can resume operations much more quickly.
This is what it means to protect business-critical systems.
However, remember that not all disasters are “natural.” A cyberattack, for example, could compromise your digital infrastructure — allowing criminals to steal data, disrupt your operations, or shut down your entire business.
This is why you should always adhere to the latest data security standards — especially if any of this information is of a financial nature. Choosing a PCI-compliant payment processor, for example, can help safeguard the types of credit card details that cybercriminals often target in their attacks.
For additional tips on how to make your business’s operations “disaster-proof,” check out this free resource.
5. Maintain a Preparedness Kit
According to Ready.gov, it may be several days before emergency help arrives. Are there enough food rations, water, and supplies on-site to last your entire team for 72 hours or more?
If not, you’ll need to build an office survival kit. Because many items (such as prescription drugs and various foods) have short shelf lives, you must also regularly maintain this kit.
For tips on building your disaster preparedness kit, check out this free resource.
Emergency Preparedness Doesn’t Just Save Lives
Disaster planning isn’t simply about saving lives. It can also help ensure your small business’s long-term survival. Roughly 25% of companies permanently shut down their operations following a major disaster.
There are many reasons why this number is so high, but insufficient planning is a leading contributor. This merely highlights the importance of sitting with your team to assess potential risks and develop appropriate responses.
Doing so isn’t particularly enjoyable — which is why so many businesses delay disaster planning for as long as possible. Though the sooner you start, the better off you and your employees will be.
Don't delay any further — use this September to create emergency preparedness plans for your organization.