Plan now to avoid disaster

Photo courtesy of morgue file user hotblack

Photo courtesy of morgue file user hotblack

Americans are not adequately planning for the future. Not in their personal lives. Not for their business.

According to a recent ABC poll, only 50% of us have a will. Only 42% have a living will or health care proxy. We are even less prepared for a business disaster. When Symantec surveyed IT decision makers, they found only 26% of small to mid-sized businesses have a disaster preparedness plan in place.

Why is such a plan important? According to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, one in four small businesses that close during a disaster never reopen. That number rises to 43% if the business did not have an emergency response plan in place at the time of closure.

Those statistics are shocking, especially because we have been forewarned. A survey by the Zurich Insurance Group found that 75% of respondents experienced at least one incident in the last year which disrupted business operations.

So pull up your calendar right now and schedule time to create your company’s emergency preparedness plan. It should include four key components:

  1. Insurance – Is your business adequately covered? Think beyond total loss coverage of your company’s physical location. Are you insured for interruptions in service? Is your liability coverage sufficient in the event someone is injured on premises or while using a product your company manufactured?
  2. Critical Business Systems – Will you be able to access critical data and applications from a remote location for an indefinite period of time? How will you ensure the emergency system is properly configured, remains secure and meets required corporate compliances such as HIPAA? How will you access financial records and systems? If you are a manufacturer and can’t access your equipment, how will you fill orders?
  3. Communications – The extent of this component will vary depending upon the nature and scope of the disaster. How will you reach employees and customers? Should you alert the media? Hold a press conference? Do government agencies and utilities need notification? Should social media be part of your public outreach plan? Who is authorized to speak for the company?
  4. Personal Safety – This encompasses everything from an individual medical emergency to a building evacuation. Are key employees certified in first aid or CPR? In an emergency evacuation, who will account for all personnel and how will that be done?

If you need help getting started with your plan, there are several available resources. Fellow TDS Blogger Laura Schmitz offers her take on the topic. USA Today developed an interactive map to show which states are at highest risk for certain types of natural disasters. The Small Business Administration has a wealth of information ranging from plan development to tips on cleaning up after the disaster. FedEx and the American Red Cross partnered to create an emergency preparedness checklist. The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety has a comprehensive and easy to use guide called Stay Open for Business. Last, but not least, there are companies such as Firestorm that specialize in helping your company build a culture of preparedness.

The bottom line……don’t wait for disaster to strike. Take steps now to create an emergency preparedness plan for your business.

Share your thoughts below or contact me on Twitter or G+.

About Delora Newton

Delora Newton is the Vice President, Advocacy for the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce. She has over 20 years of experience in state and local public policy advocacy and is passionate about building a business climate that supports economic growth and protects community assets. Follow her on Twitter: @Delora4Biz or G+

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