Updated: May 21, 2018
Being a business owner involves managing a never-ending to-do list: one that includes everything from reviewing budgets to preparing for emergencies. After all, weather-related disasters are increasing, so planning for emergency situations isn’t just a smart move — it’s imperative.
Luckily, getting your business emergency-ready isn’t as daunting as it seems. All it takes is some time and strategic planning. Follow these four tips to prepare your business for potential disaster.
The first step is getting your business space properly set up to handle emergencies. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher handy, as well as a tool kit. Next, build a few disaster kits that include first aid supplies, clean water, non-perishable food, can openers, flashlights, batteries, dust masks, whistles, local maps, and cell phones with extra chargers. Place these kits in several different, easily accessible areas of your office or store.
It’s also a good idea to hire a building inspector to check that everything from your fire sprinklers to windows are up-to-code and functioning properly. Depending on your business’ location and which natural disasters occur frequently there, you may even want to talk to your building manager about investing in extra safety precautions, like shatter-proof windows.
Even more crucial than outfitting your business with emergency supplies is developing a robust emergency preparedness program so your employees know exactly what to do in the event of a disaster. Start by implementing a quarterly emergency training session that goes through various situations and the best ways to respond. In addition, consider setting up a CPR training program for a group of employees.
Next, focus on organizing bi-annual office safety drills that cover everything from intrusions to earthquakes. Then, take some time to create a business-wide emergency communications plan that details how your employees should get in contact with one another and reconvene following a crisis.
Make sure you conduct annual updates to your emergency preparedness program. Review your supply inventory, reexamine office escape routes, train new employees on company procedures, and send out an updated office-wide emergency communications plan if you change anything.
A natural disaster can wreak havoc on your business space, destroying important papers in the process. If you haven’t already transferred your business records to the cloud, carve out some time in your schedule to do it. Start by gathering insurance papers, expense reports, permits and licenses, and any other items essential to your daily business operations. Scan the papers onto your computer and back them up to the cloud as well as a physical hard drive. Virtual storage isn’t just safer; it’s also more flexible. The ability to access your documents from any device means you can conduct business even if your office is undergoing disaster renovations.
For extra precaution, make a second copy of all your papers to store in a filing cabinet in your office, then transfer the original versions of your papers to a secure offsite location. You could use a self-storage facility or find a company that specializes in storage for business records.
To prevent a backlog of paper documents, aim to digitize important paper records once a month and transfer original copies to your offsite location every quarter. Staying organized and diligent now is what will help keep your business safe and operational in the event of a disaster.
Double-check to see what kind of emergency coverage you have. Does your insurance plan cover natural disasters, and if so, which types? Does it cover accidental fires, burglaries, or damaged equipment? Getting insurance that covers a variety of common disaster situations is critical. Not only does it help protect your most valuable assets — including your business’ real estate, machinery, inventory, or tech equipment — it also could set you up for a faster, more cost-efficient recovery process if disaster does strike.
Hopefully, your business will never have to deal with a devastating disaster, but it’s important to be prepared nonetheless. Developing a comprehensive emergency preparedness program and taking precautionary measures can help you recover in the aftermath of the unthinkable.