How to Create an Emergency Plan for Your Small Business
Being prepared for any type of emergency is critical. As of October 2021, the U.S. has experienced over 18 weather disasters. For a small business, it’s important that all team members are on the same page and you have the proper resources.
Developing a business emergency plan can help keep workers safe and your business operating, even when things get tough. Here are some tips for creating an effective plan.
1. Know Your Company’s Risks
You want to consider which emergencies are most likely to impact your business. For example, if you live in a coastal region, your business may be vulnerable to hurricanes or vicious snowstorms. Small business owners in hotter climates may need to worry about droughts or wildfires.
You’re likely already familiar with the natural disasters in your region, but take time to research city evacuation plans, emergency funding, and other resources you may care to have ready before the worst happens to your business. Incorporating this background research into your emergency plan will help you and your employees stay prepared.
2. Determine How Your Business Will Continue to Operate
Even during a crisis, you want to keep your business up and running. Take into consideration what resources you use to keep your business operating. How can you limit these resources?
For example, construction employees use heavy machinery for building. Yet, this can be dangerous during a storm. So, they can use time during inclement weather to complete administrative work, get a headstart on training programs or step in to communicate with clients and suppliers. Contingency plans for action can help everyone keep the business moving forward without a massive loss in downtime.
Also, have backup generators readily available if your business has a physical component in a natural-disaster-prone region. Planning for operational continuity will help you take preventive measures and plan to stay operational when circumstances aren’t ideal.
3. Get Your Contacts in Order
When an emergency occurs, you don’t have time to look around for contact information. Have an easily accessible list of all important emergency personnel. These include the local police and fire department and the National Weather Service. In addition, make sure to write down the number of your insurance and gas companies.
It’s also critical to have the numbers of your supply vendors. You want to be able to communicate with them about any changes to your current operation. You may need to work out alternative places to drop off deliveries. Be sure to have the number of a backup supplier as well.
4. Develop an Evacuation Plan
During severe weather, you may need to evacuate your home or office building. Make sure you have a plan for how this will go. Make sure everyone is on the same page about where to relocate. Also, designate someone on-site to guide people during an emergency — keeping the plan executing without panic.
Practice your evacuation to ensure it runs smoothly. When coming up with the plan, determine the nearest exit. Make sure exit pathways aren’t blocked by furniture. You also want to consider those with disabilities and develop an accessible route for them.
Keep in mind you may need to shelter in place, so you want to find a safe spot. Look for an area where the doors lock and there is furniture you can use to barricade the door. Before picking a spot, check the locks. If it’s a severe weather threat, head to the lowest level. A basement is an ideal spot.
5. Create a Disaster Kit
You want to create an emergency kit to take care of your business and employees. It should include a first-aid kit for potential injuries. You also want to add medical supplies like smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.
Keep in mind some workers may be stuck in place, so you want to add supplies for them. These items can include:
- Bottled water
- Non-perishable food
- Battery-operated radio
- Blankets and toiletries
Ensure the kit is stored in an easily accessible place, such as a desk drawer. Also, check that each employee knows its location. In addition, consider offering employees CPR classes. It may take time for help to arrive. Having trained employees could save lives.
6. Figure Out How You Will Communicate
During an emergency, effective communication is essential. It helps to keep employees safe and alert, and also loops in clients to let them know what’s happening with your operations. The first step to creating a communication plan is determining who you will need to reach out to.
These people often include your workers, customers, and vendors. You then need to assign who will reach out to them and how they will do it. If you plan to contact people by phone, make sure to have a backup generator in case the power goes out.
When communicating vital information, keep it brief and simple so people aren’t overwhelmed. Also, make sure to have a battery-powered radio to get updates from the media.
7. Back Up Important Documents
Technology is extremely useful — but it may fail during an emergency. So, it’s important to back up important information, such as payment records. If you store data on a physical device, have a copy placed in a secure, off-site location.
If you keep data stored on the cloud, back up the information regularly. In addition to backups, keep your information protected from cyber threats. To do this, keep your software up-to-date, use multi-step logins, and require a password.
Tips for Developing a Small Business Emergency Plan
Businesses should have an emergency plan in place. It helps to protect your employees and ensures the company continues to operate. Follow these tips to create a successful emergency plan.
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Evelyn Long is a writer and editor focused on home building and construction. She is the co-founder of Renovated, a web magazine for the home industry.
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