Bad things happen – that’s reality. How well and quickly your organization recovers is a matter of planning ahead and staying prepared. In this article we’ll discuss the 6 keys to properly preparing for a disaster.
Unless you've stayed completely off-grid for the past few month, you've probably seen the devastating results of hurricanes and wildfires in the news. When the waters recede and the smoke clears, scores of businesses will cease to exist. This reality is, in equal measures, alarming and informative.
While you may never face a large-scale hurricane, chances are some type of weather or other calamity will impact your business. How you fare will largely depend on how well you've prepared ahead of time. Do you have a disaster preparedness plan? Do you routinely revisit it to ensure it is still applicable?
We've developed this brief list of factors to consider when reviewing your organization's disaster plan:
- Assess your risk– What are the threats that can impact your organization? Is your area prone to natural disasters? Is your office in a flood plain? Are you in tornado alley? Even if your answers are no, you should consider what would happen if these events occurred.
Some disasters find their origin in human activity rather than being weather-related. An infrastructure failure such as a water main break or a long-term power outage can push an organization to the brink of collapse if you are unprepared.
- Protect yourself – Store physical records in a secure room in a fire and heat resistant file cabinet or safe. Look for an Underwriters Laboratory (UL) certification to ensure that your storage device is secure. Wherever possible, create or save digital copies and store them off-site.
Similarly, protect your company's key IT infrastructure. When possible, have a server room with a raised floor, halon fire suppression and blast-proof doors. Critical systems should be on fault tolerant hardware; and an uninterruptable power supply (UPS) or back-up generator.
- Think ahead – If a disaster or disruptive event occurs, where would your staff meet? Who would be in charge of making calls to emergency contacts? Answering these questions and having a plan ahead of time can help you avoid much of the chaos typically seen at these kinds of events.
- Understand your insurance – Review your company's policy and know your coverage amounts and deductibles. Having photos of high value items may simplify the claims process. Some policies do not cover all types of disasters and damages, and having supplemental coverage such as flood, earthquake insurance may be advisable.
The Internal Revenue Service 584-B Business Casualty, Disaster, and Theft Loss Workbook can help you organize and plan for a disaster, and having it in writing can expedite the insurance claim process.
- Think about your business ecosystem – Your organization doesn't exist in a vacuum. You rely on your vendors and customers to supply goods and services. Think about the potential impacts that a large-scale disaster might have on your business's value-chain. Verify that service providers, such as your payroll company, have a fiduciary bond to protect you in the event of a default.
Discuss your disaster recovery strategy with your clients so they know your plans for dealing with a catastrophic event.
- Prepare for the aftermath – Have a comprehensive plan for the aftermath of a catastrophic event. Employee emergency lists as well as client information should be securely stored off-site and available in hard-copy and digital backups.
Proper planning can help the "unthinkable" become just a series of predictable, well thought-out activities that will ensure the fast and full recovery of your business. As the saying goes: "Hope for the best, but plan for the worst."
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