Being Prepared for the Next Natural Disaster

NDLast year the Eastern seaboard of the US was pummeled by Hurricane Sandy, harshly affecting millions of people.  Businesses were destroyed, offices and entire metropolitan areas flooded, and homes left uninhabitable. The aftermath left businesses that were unable to reopen and employees searching for a place to live for themselves and their families. With Hurricane season upon us again and the massive Colorado flooding going on right now as a reminder, I thought I would share some proven suggestions from the folks at SmallBizTrends.com.

  1. Protect Your Property

The best time to protect yourself and your possessions is BEFORE an event – long before! That means careful consideration of potential threats and what should be done to minimize their impact should they occur.

a.    Secure your building or office space – Be sure to listen to weather reports and if an event seems likely, make sure that all potential “missiles” such as tables, chairs, flower pots, and planters are brought inside. Make sure that windows and doors are properly secured depending on your area. If you do not live in the coastal Southeast or Gulf Coast, you may not be familiar with hurricane shutters and boarding up windows, but that did not stop Sandy and we need to take every threat seriously!

b.    Store your merchandise and equipment – Whether you operate a wine shop, restaurant, or clothing store, make sure that flooding or damage to windows and doors will have the least impact on your business assets.

c.    Have clean up material on hand – This seems like common sense, but what do you need? Make sure you are ready regardless of what happens.

2.    Protect Your Team

.      Encourage employees to prepare their families – Employees are primarily concerned with their loved ones. Businesses need to recognize this and be supportive.

a.    Establish an emergency plan – Understanding what to do in the event of an emergency is essential. More important is ensuring that all employees understand the policies and procedures, and that these are actually practiced beforehand to ensure that, during a crisis, everyone knows what to do and what is expected of them.

b.    Stock up on provisions – This includes flashlights, batteries, radios, water, and other provisions that might be needed for a prolonged event.

c.    Follow the news – Some situations can change dramatically in a short period of time. Knowledge is one of your best defenses against surprises!

3.    Protect Your Assets

.      Invest in off-site backups of important documents – Identify critical business documents, such as contracts or personnel records, and ensure that these are stored elsewhere in case of a catastrophe.

a.    Make an emergency contact list – In the midst of an emergency, it is important not to be scrambling for local emergency telephone numbers or even the contact information for key personnel.

b.    Update your insurance policies – Make sure that you are properly covered for any anticipated events.

c.    Create and have available emergency action plans – This is where we know what we will do, why we will do it, who will implement it, and when!

d.    Record the damage – Identifying what occurred will be important foir the recovery process.

I’m not going into details on this list because different parts of our country have very different natural disasters.  Additionally, keep in mind that your business may not be based in the disaster area but could still be affected.  Customers, remote workers and suppliers that are out of commission need to be considered.

These are very good points to use for preparation.  There’s no way to predict what will happen but being prepared saves money and lives. The Phone.com hosted phone service is designed with the flexibility and adaptability needed to prepare for emergency events, For example, creating a preset Greeting to be used during and after a disaster is very useful. It is also important to carefully consider the call queues and handling rules so that, regardless of the event, your customers and suppliers will be able to reach someone and your business can continue without interruption. Keep in mind that it does not take a Hurricane Sandy to knock out your business systems. If the business on the floor above you has a sprinkler malfunction, your computers, servers, printers, and other office resources can just as easily be flooded with no warning! Remember that the time to prepare is not during an event but long before!