Published On: September 13th, 2022793 words4 min read

September is National Preparedness Month, and it’s a great time to make sure your business or department is ready in case a disaster strikes. Here in southern California our natural disasters are likely to be wildfires, but your location could be different.

The most important component to preparedness (just as in safety!) is to have a plan, and make sure that your staff and management are all trained on it. If you don’t have a disaster plan already in place, here are some things to consider when you’re putting yours together. 

If you do have a disaster plan but you haven’t reviewed it in the past year, give it another look and see if you need to update it. Key personnel may have changed since you put the plan together, or your operations may have changed in some way.


Assess the risks

What kinds of emergencies have you seen happen? What are the most common events in your area? In many cases, the first thing to go is the power – to your computers, your point-of-sale machines, the lights in your warehouse. How else would a power outage affect your business?

Prioritize for the most common or likely disasters first and decide what kinds of risks they’re likely to bring. Those are probably the most important hazards to mitigate.


Plan for operations to continue

What’s absolutely necessary to keep your business going, in terms of people and equipment? Which departments need to be functioning? Which employees in those departments are critical, and what do they need to continue operations?

Who might you need to contact? Very important clients and vendors should probably be the ones to reach out to, but who has that list and how will they be able to communicate? You might also decide to coordinate with key third parties in the event of a disaster to make sure business is still running.

Just as you do for personal records that you can’t afford to lose in a fire or flood, keep a copy of important business records in a safe container off-site.


Bring your staff into the plan

It’s a great idea to have staff input on the plan, because they may have some valuable input. However, your business needs to be in contact with every single one of your employees before, during, and after an emergency. Consider setting up phone trees, email alerts, or call-in numbers so they can be updated regularly. 

Plus, encourage them to set up plans at home as well. You may be able to help them create safety plans or safety kits. If you want to retain your talented staff, helping them with things like this will create a lot of loyalty to you and your business when you demonstrate your concern for their well-being off the job too.


Protect your business

Review your insurance coverage, potentially with the agent who helped you with it. Make sure you understand what it does and doesn’t cover. And if you determine that you have a blind spot, like a lack of flood insurance, consider adding it to your coverage.

Don’t forget to cover machines and equipment as well. What kinds of replacement parts will you be able to get? In addition to electricity, what other services (trash, water, gas, etc.) does your equipment rely on and what will you do if that gets interrupted?


Understand how to respond (stay or evacuate)

Your emergency action plan should cover how you alert employees as well as local officials (if necessary) to an emergency. 

  • Evacuation order

Make sure employees know how to get safely out of the building, especially if elevators aren’t working, and that exit routes are clearly marked. Pick two places to meet: one that’s near your business and one that’s farther away in case the local area isn’t safe. That way you can count heads and make sure everyone is clear of the building.

  • Stay at home/shelter-in-place order

It’s a good idea to have a kit ready for things you and the staff might need, such as water, food, blankets, flashlights and batteries, battery-operated radios, and so forth.

Not only is a plan necessary to prepare for a disaster, but you’ll also have some peace of mind knowing that you have a plan in place in case something does happen.


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