Planning Tips: Don’t Wait Until After Disaster Strikes

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Fun fact. Did you know that floods and droughts kill far more Americans a year than earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes? In 2019, the US recorded 1,520 tornadoes and 1,126 in 2018. So far, 2020 is showing a downward trend with only 602 tornadoes in May compared to May of 2019, which had 932.

What is even more surprising is when you look at the Insurance Information Institute’s data of events for 2019, the events that caused the most deaths and damage to the respective communities were actually severe thunderstorms and winter storms.

If there is anything that is guaranteed when it comes to severe weather it is that your business will be affected by one. The when, what and how are the unknowns.

In order to protect your business from these events, you need to have a process in place before you find yourself on the wrong side of a significant weather event.

Your business should create an “emergency operations plan.” The emergency operations plan will help your leadership and staff know what their roles will be if a natural disaster should strike. It should cover things like:

● Who will be in charge?
● What and how will responsibilities be delegated to employees, whether on-site or off-site?
● What will happen if your business physical structures are directly impacted?
● How will you continue to maintain as much of “business-as-usual” as you can?
● Do you have the ability to work remotely until the physical structure is safe to return to?
● How will you direct inquiries and customer needs to the right person when your typical infrastructure is no longer accessible?
● How will your employees access the critical business information needed to effectively serve your customers?

You should also have a communications crisis plan as a part of your emergency operations plan that addresses how to communicate with your employees. Should it be telephone, email, or text? Gather emergency contact information such as personal cell phones and email addresses and ensure these are updated regularly.

It is also a good idea to have a disaster fund set aside in the event your business is unable to generate revenue in the direct aftermath of the natural disaster. This will allow you to continue payroll as you recover – and something your employees will be very thankful for.

You also need to make some decisions on how you will communicate to your clients. What message do you want to send? Have a pre-written sample message available that can easily be communicated to all of your customers through social media, emails, press releases, or other modes of communications as soon as possible following an event.

Be sure to include a good, working phone number or other contact information where someone can be reached if they have any questions. If you have to close for any amount of time, be sure to also remind your customers when you are back up and running at full capacity.

Make sure you have backups and that they’re tested frequently. We cannot emphasize enough the need for multiple forms of back up of critical corporate data that keeps your business running.

On-site and off-site geo-redundant back up options are crucial, and we would even recommend having a cloud back up solution as a third layer of protection should both the on-site and off-site be affected.

Review your business insurance coverage. As your business grows, so will your insurance needs. Keep in regular contact with your insurance agent to ensure that you have the right amount and type of coverage to ensure your business.

Not all types of disasters are automatically covered. Flood coverage, for example, is usually an add-on. Be sure that you have the right coverage for your needs and location and natural disaster risk.

Truly, no one is immune from some form of a natural disaster. While some may be at a higher risk of certain types of disasters, depending on their geographical location, the reality is that we all are in danger of experiencing some sort of natural disaster.

How many of us would have predicted last year that we would have had to develop and get ready for a global pandemic that completely shifted the way we have to get business done? You need to have this plan to protect you and your business so you can react quickly and strategically the moment a disaster occurs.

Things to keep in mind post-disaster are:
● Employee safety
● Customer needs
● Supplier and supply chain risk management
● Local regulatory requirements

We know that planning for an event like a natural disaster is not the highest priority in keeping your business operating on a daily basis. But, just like a will, it is critical to ensure that your business continues and your assets go where they are needed if something were to happen that significantly impacts your business.

We are here to help you devise this plan and strategy and keep your business running if the unthinkable happens.