How quickly your company recovers from a disaster will depend on emergency planning done in advance. While recognizing that each situation is unique, your organization can be better prepared if it plans carefully, puts emergency procedures in place, and practices for the kinds of emergencies it could face. A commitment to planning today will help support employees, customers, the community, the local economy and even our state. It also protects your business investment and gives your company a better chance for survival.
FEMA's Ready Business program and website (http://www.ready.gov/business) has a variety of resources for business preparedness and planning including templates, planning documents, and links to a free online assessment tool. FEMA's "Prepare for Emergencies Now. Information for Businesses" brochure. The Small Business Administration also has resource on their Emergency Preparedness webpage.
- Understand the risks and hazards that your business may encounter and learn about specific types of disasters with the resources at MEMA’s Be Informed webpage.
- Review your property insurance with your insurance agent. Insurance policies vary, so check on coverage for physical losses, flood coverage and business interruption to understand what your policy covers and what it does not. Take photographs or make a video of your business establishment, both inside and outside and store off-site or online so that you can access even if your business is damaged or destroyed.
- Determine and establish a written disaster preparedness plan for your business and its contents. Coordinate this plan with local and state officials. Specify the conditions under which the plan will be implemented.
- Test your plan, reviewing it annually. Establish an employee-training program on your disaster plan.
- Make plans for protection of your computer files, including an off-site back-up system to secure and safely store data.
- Protect corporate records, keeping duplicates at an alternate location.
- Consider a stockpile of emergency supplies for your business. Things like water, food, battery powered radios, flashlights, and other items found in home emergency kits can tailored for the needs of your business in case employees are stranded at work.
- Well in advance of storms, acquire emergency protective equipment and supplies. Heavy plastic sheeting, duct tape, sandbags, emergency generator, chain saw and large pieces of plywood will help protect your property.
- As storms approach, remember to bring in display racks and other objects, such as trashcans that might cause damage if airborne. Remove outdoor signs, especially those that swing or are portable.
- Move merchandise, equipment or furniture away from windows or skylights. Elevate boxes or equipment, if possible.
- Consider if there is non-critical electrical appliances and equipment that you might turn off if power outages are anticipated. An ensuing power surge, once power is restored, could be damaging to connected equipment. For critical appliances and equipment, consider surge protectors, batteries, alternative power supplies and other items to protect your critical equipment.
- As part of your plan, develop a crisis communications plan to detail how you will communicate with employees, local authorities, customers, suppliers and others during and after a disaster.
- Develop employee notification procedures and methods to keep employees updated on the status of the business, when and where to report to work, etc. As part of this plan, consider having multiple methods for notification and information sharing in case methods are interrupted by damage or utility outages. Consider a hotline where employees can call in for information or a check in system for employee to let the company know their status.
- Develop an employee identification system, such as picture ID badges. Consider designations of essential or emergency employees as part of your plan to prioritize key staff and potentially help gain access to an affected disaster area.
- As part of your plans, consider transportation challenges that employees may face that sometimes occur during emergencies such as public transit system closure, travel bans, shelter-in-place orders, etc and develop contingency plans.
- Prepare for utility disruptions. Businesses are usually dependent on electricity, gas, telecommunications, internet, phone, water, and sewer services. Plan ahead for extended disruptions to these services and speak with service providers about potential alternatives and backup options such as generators.
- Consider training employees in CPR and first-aid
- Consider joining the NorthEast Disaster Recovery Information X-Change (NEDRIX), which is a non-profit organization that provides continuity and crisis management professionals access to real time governmental agencies (such as MEMA) information during a crisis or event. NEDRIX also provide industry best practices and an opportunity to meet and share ideas and experiences with peers through conferences and symposiums held throughout the year. NEDRIX is free to join and also has information on their website: www.nedrix.com.