Thursday, September 25, 2014

6 Steps for Preparing Your Business for a Disaster

By Michelle Fordice, Volunteer Contributor

Is your business ready to respond to - and recover from - a natural disaster? According to the Insurance Information Institute, 40% of businesses fail after a natural or man-made disaster. Moreover, Americans spend about 20% of their time at work and we all want to be safe while we 're there. Here are six steps to help your business prepare for a disaster.

Commit to preparedness

Think about who you need to get involved to prepare your business for a potential disaster. Is your senior leadership committed? Who on staff needs to be a part of developing how the organization responds to emergencies? What resources are available? 

Conduct a hazard vulnerability assessment

Know your area. Consider what situations are most likely to arise. For example, when it comes to extreme weather, D.C. is most likely to suffer from tornadoes, snow, and floods. Are you ready for those situations?

Know your business. Are there any unique factors to your industry or the area that your office is located that make you more susceptible to a particular kind of emergency? 

Asses your staff and resources. Know the physical capacity, supplies, equipment and human resources of your organization. Have you spoken to your insurance carrier to see what situations are included in your coverage? Who on your staff has a cool head in tense situations? Who has been trained in basic first aid and CPR? 

Develop an emergency response plan

Create a team that develops and maintains an emergency response plan for the business. Prepare a written emergency response plan that addresses the hazards you have identified. Are staff members assigned to particular tasks within that plan?  What are escape routes? Do you need to make any considerations for the special needs of employees with disabilities and medical conditions?

Prepare a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP). Are you prepared to perform essential business functions under a broad range of circumstances? What would happen if you lost access to your records or your facility? Are your suppliers prepared for an emergency? After you know your staff is safe, how will you inform your customers that the service you provide may be interrupted?

Implement an emergency response plan

Train your employees on the new plan. Consider sponsoring a training session for employees in topics like first aid and CPR. (The Red Cross offers training programs for businesses.)  

Acquire safety equipment and supplies.

Provide employees with resources to be ready at home, on their commute, and at work. Make sure you have emergency contact information for each employee in a place where you could access it during an emergency. 

Test and improve your emergency response plan

Conduct drills. People are more likely to respond appropriately when they have had practice. Remember that you should repeat drills at least annually and that new hires will need to be trained.

Consider how everyone performed on the drill. What didn’t work and what items were you missing?

Make improvements. 

Help your community prepare

No business survives without the community it serves. Once you have prepared your business, help prepare your community. Consider hosting a blood drive or donating supplies or services to a local emergency effort. 

Think you’re ready? Try taking The Red Cross Ready Rating assessment. This is a free program that measures your organization‘s level of preparedness and provides tools for making improvements.

Additional Resources:

American Red Cross Ready Rating 123 Assessment
American Red Cross Ready Rating Resource Center
Small Business Association Emergency Preparedness Resources for business
University of Florida Disaster Handbook

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