A survey earlier this year by Travelers Insurance found that nearly half (48 percent) of small business owners lack a disaster plan or business continuity plan for their companies. Are you one of them? With hurricane season still bearing down on much of the country, fires flaring up elsewhere, and the anniversary of 9/11 just behind us, creating a disaster preparedness plan for your business could save your business—and lives.
In the spirit of September (National Preparedness Month), here are some steps every small business owner should take to protect his or her business in case of disaster.
Create an evacuation plan. Make sure your team knows what to do in event of a fire, flood or other disaster. Appoint leaders who will take responsibility for making sure everyone is accounted for.
Secure your business data. Whether you choose to make physical backups of your business’s key information and records, or use cloud storage solutions to simplify the process, the important thing is to back up your data and store it offsite.
Plan for communication. How will you and your team communicate in the event of a crisis that jams phone lines or knocks out your Internet? Establish backup plans, phone trees and other systems you can use to stay in touch if, for example, a blizzard keeps you all from getting to the office.
Create continuity. How will you continue serving clients after a disaster if you can’t access your office, your computers or other equipment? Plan alternate methods such as working from home, temporarily using space at a colleague’s business or renting a shared office facility.
Consider vendors. If key vendors are knocked out by a natural disaster, your business could face supply chain issues. Plan now to ensure you aren’t overly reliant on one vendor (or vendors from one part of the country) so that you have adequate supplies to keep your business running.
Assess your insurance. Talk to your business’s insurance agent about whether your current insurance is up-to-date with your needs. It’s a good idea to assess your coverage once a year. Your agent can talk to you about business interruption insurance, key man insurance and other types of insurance that may help you in the event of disaster.
Test your plan. The time to test out your disaster plan is before disaster strikes. Do a dry run and see what elements of your plan work and which ones need fine-tuning. Like your insurance, it’s smart to update your plan annually to make sure it’s always current.
Your SCORE mentor can help you think through the possibilities and draw up a disaster plan. If you don’t have a mentor yet, visit the SCORE website to get matched with one and get free business advice, 24/7.