5 Emergency Preparedness Tips for Small Businesses

No business owner wants to imagine everything they've worked hard for washing away or going up in smoke. But given the severity of natural disasters, those who fail to plan for an eventual fire, flood or other catastrophe risk taking a much longer time to recoup their losses, if they recover at all.

Creating a plan to reduce danger while also planning how to recover physical and financial loss can help ensure the long-term survival of an organization should the worst occur.

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1. Identify the Likelihood of Disaster

Those in the manufacturing industry have long developed safety plans for dealing with hazards such as equipment failure and chemical spills. However, even the most seemingly innocuous workplaces can hold dangers.

Regional natural disasters are one threat that every business should consider in their emergency preparedness assessments. These natural disasters can include flooding, wildfires, earthquakes, and blizzards.

2. Create a Crisis Communication Plan

The best emergency preparedness plan will do little to promote safety if your organization lacks a way to communicate. During the chaos of a tense situation is no time to wonder whether Barb in accounting got the memo to evacuate, you must plan a telephone chain of command.

Assign each person in a supervisory position a list of staff members they are responsible for notifying. As some of the most pressing emergencies leave little time to get to safety, make sure to communicate with all staff that they are to comply with emergency evacuation orders. It’s a responsibility you owe to your team.

3. Back up and Secure Your Data

Companies today store enormous amounts of both proprietary and sensitive data on their servers and computer systems. Anything from client personal information to proprietary trade secrets exists in a series of ones and zeroes created by tech giants.

Keep copies of all essential documents such as tax returns and insurance paperwork in a fireproof safe, preferably one off-site in case the building gets destroyed. Many companies use cloud technology to keep copies as well. It's a smart strategy but remember to take appropriate online safety steps to secure your information.


4. Develop a Business Continuity Plan

A business continuity plan ensures the essential functions of your business pass on to the next in command in case key players have not recovered enough to help in picking up the pieces. A good continuity plan gives an estimated recovery time based upon statistics and evolves as the business grows.

Take time to test your continuity plan regularly. When key members of the team have moved on from the business, share the plan with trusted replacements, so they know what to do should the worst come to pass.

5. Seek Financial Assistance

The federal government provides grants small businesses can use to help them recover in the wake of natural disasters or other catastrophes, as do many state governments. Additionally, organizations have business loans available to help organizations recover their losses after experiencing damage due to a multitude of emergencies.

Remember, asking for help shows no weakness. It's a sign of savvy business acumen. After all, as an employer, failing to do the right thing to help staff recover along with the business hurts the economy, as well as your bottom line.

Preparing Your Business for Any Emergency

The thought of a natural disaster frightens many, and business owners pose no exception. But by having a solid strategy, your company can weather even the worst of storms.

About the Author

Holly Welles is a real estate & finance writer interested in helping small business owners navigate challenging markets. She runs her own real estate blog, The Estate Update, and shares more work on Twitter.