The occurrence of natural disasters is simply out of anyone’s control. While you can’t stop them from occurring altogether, you can prepare to minimize any potential fallout and work to protect business assets. This isn’t only critical for businesses, but also for the sake of those who you employ and the customers who rely on your offerings.
When business contingency planning for natural disasters, it’s important to develop a detailed strategy based on Murphy’s Law: Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.” Answer the following questions as you begin to create your plan:
How will you monitor the storm/natural disaster?
Some natural disasters happen without warning (I.E. an earthquake), but other kinds like hurricanes provide a considerable amount of time to prepare in advance. Whatever the case, make sure you have a way to monitor the incident from the time you hear about it, then throughout the aftermath/relief efforts. Access to web resources is great, but the Internet can become inaccessible. Plan to rely on older resources like radio, which will surely broadcast important information from the National Weather Service to your area.
How will you communicate?
Communication is key to successfully steering your business through a natural disaster. It’s also the key step in staying organized. Determine points of contact and who on your team is responsible for what preceding the event, throughout the event, and during the aftermath. Everyone on your team should have each other’s phone numbers. Additionally, you as a business owner should be accessible – especially in the instance of a mobile network outage. That being said, knowing each other’s physical location throughout the disaster is important and something that can be determined in advance, albeit with some flexibility.
How will you back up your data?
It’s absolutely critical that all data is backed up in advance, especially if you’re a data-driven business. Don’t wait to back up your data right before a natural disaster; rather, back it up to servers on a continuous basis, as this is a critical part of the business contingency planning process. Check out these data backup options, as provided by the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team.
Do you have a backup power supply?
No matter what kind of business you are, it’s probably critical that you have some kind of backup power supply ready to go in the event that there’s an outage. It’ll make staying organized throughout the disaster that much easier, in addition to helping speed up the recovery process (dependent upon the type of natural disaster, outages can occur for prolonged periods of time).
Do you need windstorm protection?
Failure to properly board up windows in advance of a storm/hurricane can result in catastrophic damage that could otherwise, have been easily avoidable. Familiarize yourself with how you can do this successfully beforehand.
Do you have a way to pay employees?
An inability to pay your employees during a natural disaster can lead to low morale and distrust among the workforce. Additionally, unusually fluctuated hours can make planning payments more difficult. We recommend familiarizing yourself with the guidelines, as set out by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Can you carry out post incident business transactions?
Means to process payments via credit and debit cards may be down in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. In such cases, it may be necessary that you rely on cash – especially if you’re a retail business. Also, if you owe partners for services you rely on to operate, make payment plans in advance.
How will you maintain your web presence?
When people have questions during periods of uncertainty, they go to the web. Have your website updated to list proper communication methods before any disasters occurs. If possible, plan to update your website & social media profiles throughout the disaster with any changes in hours/services. Your customers will be able to appreciate you more and you’ll be able to respond to their inquires on a case-by-case basis.
When it comes to how to plan for natural disasters, there’s a lot to take into consideration – much of which is dependent upon the unique needs and structure of your business. However, a well thought-out contingency plan should allow you to minimize or even negate any negative effects a disaster can have on your business – ultimately, allowing you to continue on without much disruption. For more information on how to prepare your business for a natural disaster, contact Strom Engineering today.
For more information on preparing your business for incidents that could disrupt your business, read our other post, Tech Considerations for Natural Disasters & Their Role in Continuity.