Creating a Disaster Plan: Keep Control When Crisis Strikes

Floods, fires, storms and other disasters are something most of us don’t expect to experience in our small businesses. But in recent years, 1 in 4 companies have been hit by a crisis or emergency. Even a minor calamity that shutters your business for a few days can cause significant financial loss. According to the Small Business Administration, companies that don’t resume operations within five days of a disaster tend to shut down within a year.

Being prepared can go a long way toward protecting your people, your assets and your business. Use this checklist to form your business’s disaster readiness plan.

___1. Know your vulnerabilities. On what asset, technology or workflow is your business success most dependent? Would just a few hours of server interruption devastate your business? Or would a flood or fire in the warehouse ruin you? Know what kinds of disruptions would put your business most at risk so that you can prioritize your backup plans — whether they involve being nimble enough to quickly move to a new warehouse or shifting all sales communications online.

___ 2. Back up your data. A copy of every document and piece of data essential to your business, including records of all physical assets, should be stored off-site or on the cloud. Customer information, financial documents, payroll information and insurance policies should be among the items you duplicate so that you aren’t wasting time on document recovery while you’re trying to get back to business. Consider using a service that provides frequent, automated backups. Key employees should know how to retrieve information from the cloud remotely.

___3. Back up your operations. If running your business is dependent on a physical system, machinery or computing power, you need a plan B for power outages or a building shutdown. Calculate how much business you could continue to do from an alternate location, and test generators and other backup systems frequently. If your business could be run by your people remotely, ensure that during an emergency they will have access to the technology and information they require.

___4. Account for everyone in an emergency. In case of emergency, your staff should know how to alert each other, where to find emergency supplies, how to exit the building, and how to account for each other following an evacuation. Pick a location, and an alternate, where employees can meet following an evacuation. Keep a directory of your staff’s personal and emergency contact information on the cloud.

___5. Keep up communications. Consider how you will keep in touch if disaster strikes. Do you have contact information for all key employees within easy reach if your computers go out of commission? Can you appoint a team member to post status updates to your website in the case of a crisis? Consider creating a phone tree for connecting employees, vendors, partners and key service providers. Imagine disaster has struck. Who do you need to contact? Craft a brief plan for staying connected. Consider using social media, text messaging and email to provide information to your community.

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