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|Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes. Dave's editorial and corporate experience includes more than 10 years editing an electronic technology and communications industry newsletter for a global professional services firm.|
Small Business Disaster Planning
While it can be easy to overlook in the day-to-day activities of running and building your small business, disaster planning can provide important benefits in protecting employees and customers in your workplace, and in helping your company recover from a natural or manmade disaster.
Disaster planning can make an important difference in how well, or even whether, your business survives a natural disaster or other significant unplanned disruption. According to the Small Business Administration, 40 percent of small businesses that experience a natural disaster go out of business within a year of the disruption.
Fortunately, there are a variety of resources that can help small business owners protect their companies against common events, and plans for small disruptions such as power outages or broken pipes can be helpful if larger events occur.
Business continuity experts say disaster planning should focus on three major phases: before an event, during or immediately after an event, and recovery during the event’s aftermath.
For small business owners, an important guideline to remember is the value of keeping their recovery plans simple. While a blizzard and a hurricane may have some differences, an effective response to one event will cover most of a company’s needs in another. It’s a good idea not to waste time focusing on nuances of a specific response when applying basic elements to a good plan will pay benefits in many situations.
It’s also helpful to start by reviewing disaster plan templates from sources such as FEMA, the Small Business Administration, the American Red Cross, leading insurance companies, state and local governments, and other organizations. With some searching, you’ll find information and sample plans to help you get started.
It’s also a good idea to inspect your workplace while thinking about natural disasters and other disruptions. Check windows and doors, for instance, to see how they could stand up to wind or flood waters. Look at your roof to see if you have loose flashing or shingles. If you have a server in a basement that’s prone to flooding, consider moving it.
Identifying minor repairs before a disaster can be a value step in reducing significant damage should a major event take place.
In your disaster plans, the most important element will be protecting the safety of team members or customers in your work facility. If there is a fire or other sudden event, how would you evacuate the facility. Conversely, if you receive a tornado warning, where’s the safest place to shelter in your building?
For your evacuation plans, how would you notify people? How would they leave your facility safely? Where would they go? Consider nearby businesses or government offices as designated meeting places.
Another critical element to any effective disaster plan is keeping employees, customers, suppliers and other key people informed. Your plan should include email addresses and cell phone numbers for people you’ll want to reach, as well as alternate addresses in case your server or email provider are offline.
A phone tree, in which people are designated to inform other people about any closing or alternate plans, can be an effective backup to your primary email or text-message communication plans.
However you plan to communicate, it’s important to review contact lists at least annually to make sure everyone’s information, and your broader recovery assumptions, are up-to-date.
Investing time in disaster planning before an event can play important benefits if something unexpected occurs.
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