If disaster strikes, are you prepared? An unexpected event like a fire, flood or other emergency can close your business down completely – and maybe even permanently!
Fortunately, proper planning and preparation can help your business stay safe, and even profitable, in times of trouble. Developing a disaster plan today helps prevent major problems tomorrow.
What is a Disaster Preparedness Plan?
By their very definition, disasters are large-scale events. But preparing for a disaster doesn’t have to be overwhelming. A disaster preparedness plan involves four parts:
• Identify the Potential Risks
• Develop a Plan
• Implement the Plan and Train the Staff
• Connect with the Surrounding Community
The overall goal of a disaster plan is to keep employees and customers safe, protect physical property and, ideally, limit the total downtime of your business.
Identify Potential Disasters
A disaster is any type of accident or catastrophe which causes damage and risks lives. It can be natural or man-made.
Many disasters, especially natural disasters, are specific to certain locations. You’ll need to identify the potential risks for any location where you have stores, offices, employees or even suppliers and other third-party support. Common natural disasters include:
• Severe winter weather
Other types of disasters can occur just about anywhere. Practically any business, public-facing or otherwise, has a risk of fire, flooding or even a more sinister event such as workplace violence.
Develop a Plan
Appoint someone in your company to be the disaster plan coordinator. Having one person in charge helps keep the process organized and efficient.
Depending on the size of your business, your disaster plan coordinator might need a support committee consisting of people from each major department. Additionally, disaster planning should involve representatives from vendors, suppliers and other businesses connected to yours.
A disaster plan should include the following:
• Evacuation instructions for all physical locations
• Instructions for employees required to stay on-site during a disaster
• Employee contact information plus relevant medical needs
• Instructions on who employees should contact for up-to-date information
• A plan for securing any hazardous materials or dangerous equipment
Your insurer can help develop your plan. After all, your insurance company has seen all types of disasters, and has a vested interested in protecting your business. They can help you identify specific issues related to your type of business. Additionally, the Red Cross, IRS and FEMA all offer online resources related to disaster preparedness.
Implement the Disaster Plan
If an actual disaster strikes, you’re not going to have much time to think. You want the disaster response to be as streamlined and automatic as possible.
Proper preparation is key. Supply employees with evacuation routes and information. Additionally, make sure all physical locations are properly stocked with clean water, first-aid supplies, backup batteries and other necessary supplies.
Make sure employees have all the tools needed to communicate with each other, too. Create a system where every employee knows who to contact or who they’re should expect to be contacted by.
Connect with the Surrounding Community
Disasters rarely strike a singular business. Instead, they’ll likely affect your entire city or even state. The preparedness level of neighboring businesses can have a dramatic impact on the ability of your business to get up and running quickly.
When developing your preparedness plan, reach out to your neighbors. What steps are they taking? Does pooling resources make sense?
Plus, developing a plan is a great way to retain employees. A plan tells your employees their safety is your number on priority.
Secure Emergency Funding
Even with a plan, disasters can still be costly. You’ll likely need cash on-hand to rebuild damaged locations, recover lost inventory, and pay employees and contractors. Most business don’t have the necessary working capital to cover all the expenses caused by a disaster.
Unfortunately, obtaining a loan from a bank following an emergency is usually no easy take. First, banks are reluctant to loan money to a company which has just been hit by a disaster. Also, approving your loan can be a slow process, and time isn’t always on your side during disaster recovery.
If you need a fast influx of working capital following a disaster, consider alternative funders. You can be approved for between $5,000 to $750,000 within 72 hours after applying. But be aware that alternative funding approval is based on your business revues and ability to pay. If your community has been hit especially hard by a disaster and it is unlikely that your business will be back to normal within a few weeks, funders may have concerns about working with you. Each individual’s situation will be different, so explore your options.
Protect your employees and assets by developing a preparedness plan today. Plus, protect your business financially with a flexible merchant cash advance. Disaster can strike without warning, but the right plan can mitigate the damage significantly.