Preparation is the key to surviving a calamity.
Disasters happen. From tsunamis racing across the Indian Ocean to earthquakes leveling entire cities in Haiti, China, Italy, and elsewhere. While natural disasters are top news items other calamities take place on a localized level every day, especially for businesses.
Fires. Broken pipes. Theft. Wind damage. Smoke. Power failure. The list goes on. Unfortunately, many business owners do not have a plan in place to respond to catastrophe, making themselves vulnerable even possibly destroying their businesses.
How should you prepare? By making a plan. Those plans should include doing the following right now before it is too late:
1. Craft a recovery plan.
Sit down with your managers and discuss how your company would respond in the event of a disaster. Are back ups of files and records available and, if so, are they kept off site? If someone in leadership dies, who will take their place? Where will employees meet if a facility can no longer be used and how will you reach everyone? Managers should know about the disaster recovery plan and understand what should be done to activate it immediately. (see The New York Times: Catastrophe? It Can’t Possibly Happen Here)
2. Review your insurance coverage.
Businesses routinely buy property damage and loss coverage, but what about insurance to cover business interruption? When you business has suffered a major hit, it can take days, weeks, even months to get back on your feet again. This means that you may not be able bring in money, but you will certainly be spending cash and quick – a real recipe for financial disaster. Business interruption coverage can help pay for relocation to a new building, cover lease or mortgage payments as well as utilities, replace damaged or destroyed materials, and more. (see Bankrate.com: Disaster insurance can keep your business humming)
3. Plan to keep everyone in touch.
How will employees be kept informed about the business? Thanks to email, many people can be reached that way or through automated phone calls. But both methods require that this information be stored off site because if your computer system has been destroyed, then there won’t be any records available to track down and notify staff. (see CapitalOne.com: Disaster Planning Guidelines for Businesses)
4. Ask for help.
You cannot plan to ask for help, but you can determine that you will seek whatever additional help is needed to get your business up and running again. This may include notifying your mayor and city council of the troubles you are experiencing or calling your state representative and asking for help. This can be especially important if the disaster is widespread, effecting an entire neighborhood or community. Someone needs to ask for a disaster declaration if one is in order. (see IRS.gov: Disaster Assistance and Emergency Relief for Individuals and Businesses)
As always, review your disaster recovery plan to make sure that everything is current. Succession planning is another matter, an issue your board of directors will need to take up separately in the event that you, the CEO, make an untimely departure.