Emergency disaster preparation - checklist for business owners and operators

Nearly 40 per cent of small businesses affected by a major disaster, such as floods or storms, do not reopen their doors because they were unprepared for the disaster. Therefore, it is necessary for business owners and managers to consider the fact that a natural disaster is possible. Ask yourself these questions: How could I continue to conduct business if streets near my building are closed off? How could I serve my customers’ needs if my facility needed to close for several months? Could my business survive if it was closed down for several weeks or months?

Even if a disaster does not put your company out of business, you may not be able to make contact with your customers or obtain important deliveries. To combat these risks, you must take the necessary steps before a disaster strikes to ensure business continuation.

Disaster preparation suggestions

Consider incorporating the following disaster preparation suggestions into your business to avoid unnecessary upsets in the event that disaster strikes:

  1. Check local flood maps and have your building inspected by a licensed professional to ensure that the roof and other connections comply with requirements for your area.
  2. Consider installing impact-resistant film on your windows.
  3. Gather a list of vendors and telephone numbers of individuals or entities that are critical to your daily operations. If you heavily rely on one or two vendors, consider adding a backup vendor outside of your area. 
  4. Prepare a list of companies that can assist you in recovery efforts, such as removing debris, moving and computer services.
  5. Provide employees with a chain of command and list of responsibilities in the event that a disaster strikes. 
  6. Prepare a list of your employees and their contact information. Also find out where they may vacate to, if you are required to evacuate the city.
  7. Arrange for communication with your clients and customers, in the event of a disaster, to keep them informed.
  8. Constantly diversify your customer base, products and sales locations. This will prevent a major loss, if a majority of your customer base is also affected by the disaster.
  9. Designate a remote phone number on your voicemail system for which you can record messages to employees in the event of an emergency.
  10. Arrange for programmable call forwarding of your business lines with the phone company. Then you can call and reprogram your phones from a remote location, if needed.
  11. Install emergency backup lights that turn on when the power goes out.
  12. Back up your data on a frequent basis and keep this information off-site.

Insurance considerations

In addition to the various precautions that you should take in-house, you should also have adequate insurance cover to protect against losses. Contact Bluefin to discuss your needs and review the covers that are right for you.

Beyond your typical policies, consider flood insurance and business interruption cover policies. Also, have your business appraised every five years and conduct an inventory of your supplies and equipment, including photographs of these items and descriptions. Then leave this information in an off-site location.