Author: Cassie Scott
About one in four businesses won’t reopen after enduring a major disaster, according to the Institute for Business and Home Safety. Are you confident your business would survive such setbacks?
Although few business owners expect a disaster, it’s best to be prepared for the possibility. By preparing, you’ll equip your business to withstand minor setbacks and unforeseen disruptions. Some possible threats include accidents, acts of violence, power outages, equipment failures, employee illnesses or a cyber-security attack. Any of them could affect your employees, customers and workplace.
Let’s review some tips to prepare for the unexpected.
Is your facility near a river prone to flooding? Be aware of your surroundings and possible hazards that threaten your business. Photo Credit: Andres Leighton.
1. Know the Risks
According to Ready.gov, businesses must prepare for four types of hazards: natural, health, human-caused and technology-related. Assess your business’s risks. Could a customer accidentally injure a hand while shooting your rental equipment? What if someone gets hurt while shooting their own bow after you set it up? Also, consider your region and your business to determine which hazards or disasters are most likely. Is your facility near a river prone to flooding? Be aware of your surroundings and possible hazards that threaten your business. You must know them for tip No. 2.
2. Get Adequate Insurance
After identifying potential hazards, consult your insurance company. Ask your agent to clearly identify what your policy covers and what it excludes. General policies seldom cover flood damage. Ask specific questions. Are you covered if customers hurt themselves while shooting your gear or equipment you set up? You’ll rarely find gray areas. You’ll usually receive a yes or no. Adjust your coverage to ensure you’re protected.
Eric Giltner, a business-development specialist for the U.S. Small Business Administration, recommends looking into business interruption insurance, which helps cover operating expenses if you must close temporarily.
3. Budget for Maintenance
If you think merely owning insurance is enough, think again. Provide extra security with a small cash reserve, which helps you fix or replace items not covered by insurance. Again, assess your business. What happens if your heating or cooling system quits? What if someone accidentally breaks a window in your building? A maintenance budget can prevent the stress of scrounging up money when you need it most. It’s better to have some cash handy and not use it than to need some and not have any.
As well as having knowledge about CPR, also acquire and maintain safety equipment like first-aid kits, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and automatic external defibrillators. Make sure all trained employees have access to that gear. Photo Credit: Health Science Consulting.
4. Invest in Proper Training
Are you and your employees trained in basic first-aid and CPR techniques? According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, about 10 to 15 percent of your workforce should know CPR and first aid so they can help during disasters or emergencies until first-responders arrive. The more well-trained and well-rounded your employees, the better. Widespread expertise is handy when you need time off or you unexpectedly lose an employee. You should also acquire and maintain safety equipment like first-aid kits, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and automatic external defibrillators. Make sure all trained employees have access to that gear.
5. Back Up Your Records
Giltner also urges that businesses back up and safeguard important information. “If your main business location is destroyed, having key information stored offsite in another physical location or on the cloud allows for a faster continuation of business activities,” he said. “Information on customers, employees, vendors, and financial and logistics systems are needed to (quickly) resume operations.”
6. Create an Emergency Plan
Appoint a staff team and compile critical documents to create a detailed emergency plan. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation recommends writing a plan that’s easy to understand and implement. Pinpoint evacuation routes, shelter locations and communication efforts. Designate staff to carry out specific functions, such as gathering folks in-store for protection, or ensuring everyone has left the building if there’s a fire.
Post the plan where it’s accessible, and review it regularly with your staff. Having a post-disaster communications plan is also helpful. Use an email or cell-phone alert system to notify vendors, suppliers, employees, customers and other key people about your business plan so they know your revised business hours or rebuilding schedule.
If you’re fortunate, you’ll never need any of those plans, insurance or cash reserves. For more information, visit the SBA website, which devotes a section to helping small businesses prepare for emergencies. Another useful resource is the “Emergency Preparedness Checklist for Small Businesses,” created by FedEx and the American Red Cross. Use this checklist to evaluate your situation and prepare yourself to stay in business.