The American Red Cross states the supply of groceries present in local stores in some communities will satisfy about a three-day supply to the local population. Three days. And in the case of a catastrophic event, most of those supplies will be depleted within one day due to panic buying.
Should you have to survive for two weeks without a re-supply, how will you and your family live? How will your staff and their families live? What if your electrical power is out for days/ weeks? With gas pumps and ATM machines dependent on electricity to operate, will you have enough gas reserves to fill your car’s tank? Do you have enough cash in reserve to buy essentials?
Blackouts, brownouts, tornados, hurricanes, ice storms, terrorist incidents. … Each of these events can have a devastating effect on the way in which we live our lives and for the continuity of your business. Though preparation will not eliminate the stress or potential for injury or death, it can help mitigate the effects. And being prepared means having a plan, in this case an emergency plan.
An emergency plan will guide you and your staff on how best to handle the challenges of an unexpected threat to you, your staff, your business, and your customers. The plan can be thought of as existing in two phases: The tactical or immediate threat plan and the continuity plan.
The goal in the tactical period is to minimize injury and death. The experiences of those in the World Trade Centers demonstrate that having a plan can save lives. Thousands were saved because certain individuals had stressed the importance of an evacuation plan and had practiced the plan.
In order to minimize injury, your goal as a business owner is to remove yourself and anyone in harm’s way to a safe location, a rally point. At the rally point, a role call can be taken to identify who is present and who is missing. At the same time, individuals who are not present in the office must be notified, if possible, and alerted to what is going in the office.
A plan needs to be developed, it needs to be written, a copy needs to be available to each of your staff and the plan needs to be practiced.
Once the immediate threat has passed, one must have a plan to assist in the recovery phase and to ensure that critical data, necessary for rebuilding your business, has been saved. The goal in the continuity phase is to minimize downtime as well as to provide a recovery strategy, including a repository of important recovery information.
In developing the continuity plan, one begins by focusing on collecting information that will help in recovery: i.e. employee contact information (including family contact information and medical history), vendor and supplier information and key contacts/ customer information.
The continuity plan should include contacting your vendors and determining what their plans are regarding a catastrophic event. Consider setting up alternative suppliers for those key items necessary to keep your business running.
Let your key customers know your business has a continuity plan and explain how they can reach you should an emergency occur. Assure them you are preparing now to continue to supply the products or services they would need. Consider setting up a recovery location in the case your business location is no longer able to be used. If possible, identify a site outside the local power grid, which would be accessible in the case of major wind damage.
Make a record of those items and personnel necessary to get your recovery site up and going. The quicker and more efficiently you are able to get your business operational the better able you will be to satisfy your customers’ needs during a difficult time.
The first thought you and your staff will have is probably related to the safety of your families. A significant reduction in staff should be anticipated in the early period after the event. Plan for that reduction. Only after one’s family safety has been assured can one effectively begin looking toward rebuilding the business.
To prepare for this eventuality, you can encourage your staff to develop their personal emergency plan. For your staff to see it as a priority, you must see it as a priority. You must lead the way in your organization to develop your own plan: Building an emergency kit for your family, developing a communication plan, and staying informed.
The more prepared you feel your family is to handle an emergency, the better able you will be to focus on taking care of those around you and helping your business get back up and running.
Developing an emergency plan should be considered a critical element in the operation of your business. Though not something you will use everyday, the plan is something that needs to be practiced … and practiced.
When the time comes, you and your staff need to respond immediately.
For additional information, go to www.ready.gov or contact your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) consultant.
Mark R. Lupo is area director of the Columbus SBDC and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.