Preparing For Emergencies

Preparing for Emergencies“He who fails to plan is planning to fail,” said Winston Churchill. With hurricane season in full swing, do you have an emergency plan in place? Even if you don’t live in one of the seventeen states by the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico, having an emergency plan is good business practice.

Planning for your business in the case of fire, flood, tornado, earthquake, hurricane, or other disaster does not just mean checking your insurance coverage although that is certainly part of it.

1. Update your coverage.

You will need to check with your insurance agent to find what plan works best for you in terms of coverage and premiums. Check your coverage to make sure it includes natural disasters.

2. Back up your data.

Cloud storage is a good way to do this. There are also numerous companies who have off-site servers that can securely store your data for a fee. Check to make sure when updates are made and that they are frequent enough to meet your company’s needs. Ask yourself: What would happen if I lost a week’s worth of data? What about a day’s worth of data? The last thing you need is to lose your customer and financial information, accounts receivable, or vendor information.

3. Make a crisis communications plan.

During a crisis or emergency situation, communication with customers and employees is key.

4. Develop key talking points.

Early on in a disaster, you will of course be concerned about your employees and assets, but you will need to sit down and come up with key talking points. You will want to use those talking points to communicate with your employees, customers, vendors, and media.

5. Develop your crisis management team.

Think about who you want and need on this team. Make sure that you have their emergency numbers off site.

6. Give updates.

If information is changing rapidly, then consider having an information meeting at the beginning of each day or twice a day depending on need. Make sure that your employees are informed with correct, up-to-date information. They are public relations representatives of your organization. Educate them about your plans.

7. Control rumors.

If you have a large organization, you will need to establish rumor-control. Rumors can run rampant if there is a lawsuit or a terrible disaster. Employees will wonder where their next paycheck will come from and customers will want to know where their equipment or service is going to come from.

8. Communicate directly with your customers.

Email is a great way to push information to clients. Update your website to include relevant information about what has been affected and when you expect your operations to resume. If something has happened and you cannot make scheduled customer visits, then call those affected customers and let them know when you will be able to resume service. Customers are usually empathetic, but if you just fail to show up, you are seen as unreliable. Many customers will be quick to move on and call the next guy after your scheduled time has come and gone.

9. Temporary offices.

If your office is no longer functional, then you might want to think about a temporary office where someone can at least take calls. You will want to establish consistent contact with those associated with your business until everything is back to normal. Think about where you would set up temporary offices before disaster strikes.

10. Select a spokesperson.

Assuming you don’t have a communications department, determine one point of contact within your organization that can respond to media questions and make sure they are a part of your crisis management team. Make sure this person is comfortable responding to questions and speaking on camera. The last thing you need is incorrect information being disseminated about your business.

If you do live within an area that could be affected by hurricanes, then the U.S. Small Business Administration has a hurricane preparedness check list that you can review.

Story by Jennifer Taylor