It’s National PrepareAthon Day. Is Your Business Disaster Ready?
Ready.gov’s National PrepareAthon! Day, today, April 30, 2015, revolves around taking necessary actions to prepare for specific hazards like hurricanes and winter storms which are real and documented threats in our mid-Atlantic region.
The goal of increasing disaster awareness and preparedness is especially vital to the business community. When an emergency occurs, the need to communicate is immediate. If business operations are disrupted, customers will want to know how they will be impacted. Regulators may need to be notified and local government officials will want to know what is going on in their community. Employees and their families will be concerned and want information. Neighbors living near the facility may need information—especially if they are threatened by the incident. All of these audiences will want information before the business has a chance to begin communicating.
What to do?
Here are 5 easy steps to disaster readiness that any business can do to help mitigate damages should the unthinkable occur.
#1: Identify critical organizational functions.
Prepare a Critical Functions Chart that categorizes and indicates maximum down time for each function. Assemble a brief guide on restoring each one during recovery. Need help? There are plenty of free tools are available on the web.
The American Red Cross Ready Rating program is a free, self-guided program designed to help businesses, organizations and schools become better prepared for emergencies.
Ready.gov offers Business Continuity Planning Suite, free software created for any business with the need to create, improve, or update its business continuity plan.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has created a Small Firm Business Continuity Plan Template designed to assist small introducing firms in fulfilling their need to create and maintain business continuity plans (BCPs) for mission critical financial functions.
And finally, your state Office of Emergency Management (in this case the NJOEM) offers a “Three Steps to Safety” plan including a “Get Tech Ready” link that allows you to take advantage of technology before, during and after a crisis to communicate and manage your financial affairs.
#2: Create an emergency communications checklist.
Determine primary and backup roles for each function category. Determine with whom you need to communicate in the event of emergency or disaster (employees, customers, vendors, etc.). Determine when such emergency plans will be activated with regard to length and severity of interruption. Be mindful of any industry specific events while planning (for example, a school or nursing home where special care is needed in dealing with students or patients).
#3: Document your emergency plan.
Create a phone/email tree for notifying employees (prepare a visual chart, if necessary). Also craft website, voicemail and text messages and have them ready to go when the time comes. Determine in advance who will speak to the news media if necessary and prepare that spokesperson with talking points, so they can speak clearly and effectively in terms that can be easily understood.
#4: Disseminate emergency plan to employees.
Be sure everyone knows their roles in an emergency!
#5: Don’t forget to practice what you prepared.
Conduct a yearly drill just as you might a fire drill. Give feedback to everyone involved and ask for participants’ input as well. Refine the process where you see room for improvement.