Businesses today face many hazards such as natural disasters, hazards caused by humans and technology-related hazards. Planning for emergencies, disasters and business interruptions is a crucial part of running a business.
Natural hazards could be floods, tornados, earthquakes or hurricanes. Hazards caused by humans include accidents and acts of violence or terrorism. Technology-related problems could be caused by the malfunction of equipment, software or systems.
Every business has different customers, products, services, supply chains and physical assets. All these aspects of the business need to be considered in preparing to face an emergency.
The importance of an emergency preparedness plan
An emergency preparedness plan can help you and your employees to stay safe, minimize your downtime and ensure a speedy recovery.
To make your plan, you will need to gather information and assess your risks. You need to include steps to reduce exposure to identified risks.
Your recovery plans should address resource management, emergency response and crisis communications. You also need to address business continuity, assisting employees, training and incident management.
Once your plan has been created, it should be tested and re-evaluated constantly. It should never just sit in a desk drawer and gather dust – only taking it out when you have an emergency is not enough. At that stage, you don’t have time to address any flaws in your plan.
Identify and assess business risks
Every business faces different risks. You need to find out what risks your business is most likely to face so that you can manage them. Risks could involve threats to your staff or customers. They could also involve threats to your physical assets, such as your buildings, machinery or information technology.
When trying to assess your risks, think about your vulnerabilities and what could threaten your business. It may help to think through various disaster scenarios, such as burglaries, power failures, internet problems, or a fire in the building. Only when you are aware of your particular risks are you able to develop an effective response plan.
For example, if you believe your premises may be threatened by fire, using fire watch guard services could help to protect your buildings and prevent you from having to shut your doors for an extended period.
How can you reduce risks?
Some of the ways you could help to reduce risks is by:
- Preparing for the disruption of utilities
- Backing up documentation
- Making sure you have adequate insurance coverage
- Having the necessary emergency kits and supplies on hand. You should have food and water on hand for sustenance for at least 72 hours in case city supplies are affected by a widespread emergency.
- Preparing employees with training
- Making contingency plans regarding communication with customers, suppliers, vendors etc. Find out whether they have contingency plans in place and what alternative companies could step in if necessary.
Your business continuity plan
Your plan should include:
- Identifying necessary resources, such as personnel, equipment, protection for infrastructure and legal counsel.
- Contact information, checklists and protocols.
- Arranging how to communicate with all key stakeholders.
- Identifying alternative workspaces, backup power supplies or equipment and alternate vendor and suppliers, as well as alternative ways to make and receive payments.
In your plan, you need to state who has the authority to implement it and when this should be done.
It’s important to test your plan regularly and see if everyone understands what needs to be done. It’s no use unless it is revised and updated when necessary. A dynamic preparedness plan can go a long way to mitigating the effects of emergencies, disasters and any unexpected interruptions to your business.