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Are you prepared for the worst?

March 1st, 2014 / By: / Uncategorized

In the unlikely event of an emergency, are you adequately prepared to overcome obstacles?

Suppose a raging pandemic forced you to shut your doors for a week.
Or a fire raced through neighboring buildings, disrupting your business operations. Or a natural disaster created havoc in your community, rerouting traffic, deliveries and work schedules.

The statistical likelihood of severe business disruption may not be high, but the consequences of disruption can be grave. So the message is clear and simple: Prepare. The better prepared you are for a serious business disruption, the more likely you’ll quickly ease back into normal operations once the emergency is over.

When figuring out how to prepare for the worst, remember a few key issues:

  • Communication. Be sure you have a full range of emergency communication contact data available—land line and mobile telephone numbers, email addresses, social network addresses. And if you’ll need to get complex information out, consider adopting a pyramid-like “communication chain” among your people. If you’ll need to communicate with large numbers of people in an emergency, consider using a commercial mass notification system.
  • Declaration. Who decides when a problem becomes an emergency? Do you rely on a law-enforcement declaration? Criteria of your own choosing? Only by clearly specifying the parameters of an emergency can you ensure a timely response.
  • Documentation. Store key business documents in a safe and secure place offsite, perhaps in a lock box or with an attorney. Critical documents verifying asset ownership, control of bank and brokerage accounts, and other legal issues can be important in getting you back up and running.
  • Emergency Command. In a serious emergency, it’s vital that someone be in charge, ready to make critical decisions. Every organization needs a chain of command, with multiple layers of backup. The result is that someone is always available for emergency leadership.
  • Emergency Liaisons. In an emergency, you’ll need contact information for emergency responders and law-enforcement authorities, as well as reconnaissance information for your own people. Where, for instance, will your key people gather in the event of disruption? Best to have these questions answered now.
  • Policies. Will you pay employees during a period of disruption? Will you modify or suspend your regular customer service policies? How will you address disruption of incoming and outgoing payments? These important questions need to be addressed in your emergency plan.
  • Professional Support. In a serious emergency, you might need expedited banking services or even an emergency line of credit. You might need legal assistance to help you deal with insurance claims or vendor issues. It’s always a good idea to determine in advance who you’ll contact for help, and keep this information handy.
  • Public Information. Always designate an individual (with backup) to be responsible for providing critical information to the news media and to public service organizations. If widespread public interest will follow an emergency, be sure your emergency spokesperson has contact information he or she can use to issue news bulletins and updates. And contact information should include emergency access codes supplied by area broadcast organizations.
  • Record Keeping. Arrange now for emergency documentation procedures. Every operational problem or cost related to the emergency should be clearly journalized, and appropriate backup documentation preserved. These records may be critical in negotiating insurance reimbursement or receiving public disaster aid.
  • Risk Planning. Consult with risk professionals—your insurance people or risk consultant, for example—to identify the most likely source of disasters and emergencies. And use their expertise to identify the steps you should include in your own emergency planning.
  • Security. You undoubtedly have a wide range of security programs in place right now. But in the event of business disruption, will they still be available? Equally important, might you face increased security risk in the event of disruption? For example, if you house valuable inventory but no one is present at your work site, you might face increased theft exposure. Through disaster-related security planning, you might arrange with a private security provider (perhaps a provider in a nearby community in the event local providers are disabled) to handle critical patrol or risk management tasks in emergencies.
  • Telecommuting. If your physical location isn’t available to employees and customers in post-emergency days, do you have a telecommuting plan available? Many important administrative, sales and communication functions can be handled online today, and telecommuting can make the difference between slow and fast recovery in some instances.
  • Vital Systems. These usually include information systems—contact information, fiscal data, supply and vendor data and more. Disaster planning means ensuring that regular backups of your vital systems get removed—physically or digitally—to a secure, offsite location. In the event of emergency, you’ll need to access this information. Access to data can help you move fast, and begin the recovery process quickly.

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