You probably have a first aid kit and a smoke detector in your office, but does your business have a plan to handle inclement weather and natural disasters? The recent, rare October snow storm that hit the Northeast illustrates how businesses must be ready for emergency situations at all times. Faced with developing your own emergency preparedness plan you may not know where to start, but here are some ideas to help you get started.
If you're starting from scratch, you may not know what an emergency plan even looks like. Before you get started, decide if you, an employee, or a group of employees is going to be responsible for creating and implementing the plan. If you delegate the task, ensure the person or group you appoint has full authority make the necessary decisions. Then, decide which situations you should be most prepared for e.g. is your area most likely to fall victim to flooding, fire, extreme cold, an earthquake, etc.
The scope of what can be included in a general plan is broad, and should be tailored to fit your business and location. Here are some things you should do or consider when preparing for a disaster:
- Develop a system for communicating impending disasters and the procedures employees should follow afterward. Use email, phone, your internal social network, and all other means of communication at your disposal to communicate during and after a crisis.
- Keep a list of emergency numbers such as fire, police, hospitals, and utility companies accessible at all times.
- Make sure you have all the necessary insurance policies and that they cover all your assets and including furniture and computers. Talk to your insurance agent and review your policies. Most do not cover flood insurance; the National Flood Insurance Program is a good resource.
- Prevent employees from traveling to the office if conditions are or are expected to be unsafe. Consider letting them go virtual or telecommuting if you would still like to conduct business.
- Find a possible temporary office space in case your primary location is inaccessible.
- Have a system to secure your physical office and a cyber security system to secure data.
- Digitally back up records and keep a copy of all physical records at an off-site location. Important physical records should be kept in a fireproof safe-deposit box.
- Determine where you can purchase and/or store the supplies you need to keep your business running during a disaster.
- Always keep first aid, food and water, and survival supplies in case it becomes unsafe to evacuate the office.
Set up a time to review, amend, and update your emergency plan annually.