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  • Writer's pictureStacey Ebert

5 Steps for your Small Business to Prepare for an Emergency

In the wake of the climate crisis and weather emergencies it’s imperative for each and every one of us to have an emergency preparedness plan. Whether personal, family or small business - making sure that we’re protected in the event of an emergency is as vital as insurance. Knowing how to keep your employees, customers, data, and property safe can quite literally save lives. And knowing how to get that business back up and running as soon as safely possible is imperative to your livelihood. We've given you a ton of links to help you get this done. Advance planning is key to both these matters - do you have a plan in place?

Identify your risks

There are many risk factors for disaster. The natural ones are things like hurricanes and earthquakes, the human ones are things like accidents or acts of violence, and the tech related ones are things like malfunction of systems, and cyber attacks. Identifying your business’ risk factors provides employers the ability to find their less tangible risks, and notice if there are any holes in their plans. Outside organizations are able to provide risk-assessments or organize an analysis of business impact to enable to see the missing pieces and rectify the situation. If your business needs a place to start, check out the Small Business Administrations’ risk assessment checklist to help navigate the waters.

What do you put in your plan

Designing that emergency action plan isn’t for the faint of heart. Once you’ve identified your protocols, operational processes, and what critical documents are necessary - you can begin to create that plan. The business emergency framework is created around the prioritization of preserving people, property and procedures. It’s important to create that plan, train your staff, get the execs on board, practice the plan, and fine tune it regularly. While keeping people safe is of the utmost priority, there are some other facets of business to consider while preparing this plan. With an 'all hazards' approach consider things like: a crisis communication plan including social media and messaging strategies, regulatory requirements, and employees with off hour schedules and employees with special needs or concerns. The best action plans incorporate both short and long term strategies: don't forget pre-disaster photos and a regular glance of business insurance coverage.

Keep your people and property physically safe

Both employers and employees must understand and be supportive of the business emergency action plan; building a cross functional team of varied department leaders is crucial to your plan’s success. Create a clear and well-organized action plan (FEMA can provide a template) and practice it. Make sure employees are familiar with the crisis emergency contact list and communication plan and that employers are able to heed warnings. Be sure to back up and store significant records on the cloud or at another location and consider your supply chain and what to do if any of your suppliers was in the path of disaster. Developing a resource contact guide to be able to tap into any necessary available resources to have them at a moment’s notice is part of an organized action plan.

What resources can you tap into

Whether your business is located in a small, rural community or giant metropolis, each and every community has resources for emergency preparedness. In order to formulate your own resource guide, you can always use outside experts for guidance, but be sure to tap into local, county, state, and national assistance organizations. The Small Business Administration offers emergency preparedness training, Homeland Security’s offers an IT resource guide, FEMA offers financial assistance, and both SBA and the US Department of Agriculture offer low interest loans if necessary. These numbers, templates, action plans, apps and guides need to be at your fingertips and in your emergency action plan. Take what you need from the guides and remember that these agencies are always available as a continuing resource.

How to reopen after the emergency has passed

Each emergency and disaster situation is a little different. In order to get your business back on track as safely and quickly as possible, first know what disasters are likely in your region. After making sure that personnel and property are safe, analyze the impact on your business and take necessary action. Do you need financial loans? Do you need to photograph damages and file a claim as soon as possible? Implement your employee assistance plan to be able to help employees with required resources for financial or other assistance. And yes, your business must be prepared for some loss or delayed profits, soaring expenses, customer loss and possibly other fines or penalties. The quicker your small business can get back on track after a disaster, the sooner a new normal can begin to take hold.

Emergencies and disasters can take their toll on people, animals, property, business and livelihood. “Almost 40% of small businesses do not reopen after a major natural disaster”. You make an emergency plan with your family; why not make one for your business, too? Identify your risks, design a plan, practice and refine the plan, and make sure your employees are comfortable with their part of the process. We all hope those disasters never occur - but if they do, it’s better to have that emergency plan that can easily be activated.

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