Emergency Plan

Do You Have an Emergency Plan?

Being prepared for disaster — natural or manmade — makes business sense

Fire. Flood. Theft. Hacker attack. The odds aren’t in your favor. According to a survey conducted by Continuity Insights magazine and KPMG Risk Advisory Services businesses will experience a “significant crisis” — hurricane, wildfire, tornado, power outage, flood, cyber breach — in any given year. An estimated 25% of companies affected by a disaster never reopen, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Having a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is essential for effective loss prevention and recovery from unpredictable catastrophes. The motto “Be prepared” applies as much to the business world as it does in the wilderness. Since many risks cannot be insured, developing a disaster preparedness program and investing in system safeguards may be the only way to manage those risks.

Here are points to consider:

Identify vulnerable assets

Instead of trying to imagine every possible manmade or natural threat to your locale, zero in on which of your assets, if lost, would present the greatest threat to your company’s survival. Is it a network of computer servers storing valuable customer data or a warehouse full of inventory? Or is it the ability to take orders by phone, respond to emails or host an e-commerce website that generates all of your revenue?

Among the disaster preparedness guidelines in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Business Protection Toolkit is a self-audit questionnaire to help you consider all of your vulnerabilities.

Protect Your People

The safety of your employees, customers, visitors, contractors and others who could be at risk of hazards at your facility should be a top priority. Your local public emergency services officials are an excellent resource for developing evacuation and lockdown plans. The Department of Homeland Security FEMA Ready.gov website has a sample emergency plan you can use as a guide in preparing your company’s Business Continuity and Disaster Preparedness Plan.

Organize an internal group to develop an emergency contact call tree, designate an off-site meeting place, conduct staff training and drills and maintain proper emergency supplies on-site. The group should also put together a kit that includes blueprints for key facilities and an emergency contact list with numbers for fire and police departments, trauma specialists and other emergency numbers.

Secure your systems

Have a backup plan and a backup of your backup plan. FEMA notes that disaster survivors typically wait up to 72 hours before help arrives. This makes it essential that your business is prepared to be self-sufficient for those first 72 hours.

If data and documents are among your key assets, consider backing up to the cloud to determine if it’s right for your business. For example, an architectural firm whose computer network is destroyed in a fire could get blueprints and other key assets back if it automatically backed up its files to the cloud. If downed phone lines would cause your customers to move quickly to a competitor, you can also ensure that your phone service is virtualized in the cloud to increase the likelihood that your main business line remains active.

Set up a backup facility

What if your workspace is destroyed? Do you have another office location equipped with what you need to keep your business running? Implementing a virtual private network enables employees to work from home, when it’s safe to do so, and access office documents as well as customer and vendor contact information from anywhere they can log in.

If your business relies on heavy computing power, cooling or heating systems and other electric-powered equipment, you likely already have a backup power source. But generators are known to fail at the most inconvenient times. Test your systems regularly and secure them from the same kinds of disasters that could knock out your main power.

Set aside funds

Have some money in an emergency fund and try to determine each unexpected cost that could result from a disaster. Plan for as many contingencies as possible. Keep some petty cash on hand — having a corporate card, business line of credit or bank account for immediate expenses, plus travel and lodging is good, but it’s always good to have cash on hand.

Keep your plan updated

Once your Business Continuity and Disaster Preparedness Plan is finalized, it’s common practice to share a summary of the plan with stakeholders and partners, but keep the details within your organization for safety’s sake. Each time you review your strategic business plan, consider how the changes will affect your emergency planning. New products, raw materials, acquisitions, suppliers and employees typically affect all strategic initiatives, including disaster preparedness.

Additional resources:

Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS): OFB-EZ™ (Open For Business-EZ), business continuity planning toolkit

Additional business and disaster preparedness resources are available at DisasterSafety.org.