If you run a small business, you’re likely used to being prepared for the unexpected. Dealing with the unexpected is essentially part of your job description—whether it’s handling that last-minute order from a large client or making sure the first shipment of your new product line arrives on time and intact.
However, there are some things that even the most stalwart small business owner can’t necessarily anticipate and plan for: namely natural disasters like hurricanes, fires, floods, and earthquakes; civil emergencies like riots and unrest; and other crises like power outages and blizzards.
These events are not only beyond our control as small business owners; they can also wreak havoc on our businesses if we’re not adequately prepared. If you would like to learn more about how you can be ready for any emergency as a small business owner, read on.
Figure out Your Plan
The first step in creating a comprehensive emergency preparedness plan is to figure out what you need to prepare for.
You can do this by identifying the potential risks, hazards, threats, emergencies, and disasters that could affect your business. Once you identify these factors, you can create a list of all things they could impact.
Make a Communication Plan
The best way to communicate with employees in an emergency is a matter of personal preference. Some businesses prefer one-on-one communication, while others opt for group meetings.
It’s also important to keep your communication plan as simple and clear as possible to be followed easily by all employees.
Have a List of Frequently Updated Contacts
Start by creating a list of frequently updated contact information. This can consist of the names, phone numbers, and email addresses of everyone you need to communicate with in an emergency.
You should also include this information in your employee handbook so everyone knows how to get ahold of you if they need to reach out during an emergency.
Everyone must be clear on who to contact first if something happens at work or around the office. So make sure this process gets spelled out.
Ensure these individuals’ contact information is clearly stated in advance, so employees don’t panic if things start getting crazy around them.
Train Your Employees
You should also make sure that your employees know what to do if there is an emergency. This includes knowing where to go and how to contact you.
Many businesses have designated meeting places in case of a disaster or other emergency or require employees to stay at their desks until further notice.
In either case, everyone must understand the rules to follow them quickly during high stress and chaos. If you’re using technology in your business (and who isn’t?), ensure your employees know how it works and any limitations, especially during an emergency.
Establish An Emergency Prep Kit
The kit should be portable, easy to carry and access, and easily put together. It should also be easy to maintain, replace items as needed, and store. Get supplies ready ahead of time.
Having emergency kits on hand can help with immediate needs like sheltering in place during a storm or providing food and water if there’s no power available after an earthquake takes out infrastructure like gas lines or water mains (or if they’re contaminated).
A good kit should include items such as nonperishable food; bottled water; first aid supplies; blankets/sleeping bags; extra cash for fuel purchases if needed (gas stations may not be open); paper plates/cups/utensils; toiletries including sanitary napkins, and don’t forget or about choosing a flashlight or other light sources.
Research Insurance Options
Insurance is a good idea. It may seem like a lot of money to spend on something that’s not likely to happen, but it can help you recover from a disaster.
For example, if your business has an emergency preparedness plan and an employee follows it, they may be able to minimize the damage caused by an emergency.
It could also mean that your insurance pays for more than just recovery costs—it could pay for replacing equipment, and paying employees while they’re out of work recovering from an emergency.
If an emergency hits your business and you’re prepared for it ahead of time, you can save yourself a lot of trouble.
The best way to start preparing is to sketch out a solid emergency plan that includes the resources and protocols you need to get back on your feet quickly. Now it’s time for you to create yours.
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