How Business Leaders Should Prepare and Respond to Natural Disasters
If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that it is crucial to plan for the unexpected. The arrival of COVID-19 turned the business world upside down and forced many companies to completely change how they operate in order to stay afloat. While, hopefully, the coronavirus threat and impact will be diminished, the threat of a natural disaster is always possible.
Depending on where your company is headquartered, you could face the possibility of hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, flooding, droughts, and more. Any one of these could have a major impact on your daily operations and could even cause you to close your doors temporarily. The aim of the game is to have a plan in place, so if the unexpected does occur, you can fly immediately into action. Let’s look at some precautions to make now, so you are prepared later.
Make a Recovery Plan
One of the first things your company should do is create a business continuity plan, which is a plan of action for any type of business emergency that includes natural disasters but also accounts for other unforeseen circumstances from terrorism to a cyber attack. This plan needs to detail exactly what actions must be taken to get your business back on its feet and which individuals will make that happen. If you don’t know how to create this plan, you can purchase software to help you take the first steps.
You will need to work the recovery of your financials into your continuity plan. You may have hundreds of employees counting on your cash flow and may also need to continue paying off other outside obligations. The first step after the disaster is similar to the steps you’d take within your family unit. You begin by identifying your financial responsibilities, and you can do so by compiling all necessary documents, including pay stubs, utility costs, and tax documentation, and putting it in a safe place so you can find it when needed.
You also need to consider what you will do if your corporate office becomes inhabitable or you are short employees after the disaster. If your employees can’t work at the physical location, do they have the option to work remotely? Start looking at that now. Send a couple of employees home as a test and work out the kinks. This is also a great time to cross-train your staff on common tasks, so if one employee is unable to work after the disaster, you have another qualified person to fill their place.
Prepare for the Unexpected
In addition to creating your recovery plan, you will want to get your affairs in order, so you have your ducks in a row should a natural disaster occur. For starters, take some time to meet with your insurance advisor and review the coverage on your existing property and ask about your options if your office were compromised. You will probably have to take stock of your building and belongings and compare it with your current coverage to ensure that you are fully protected.
If you haven’t already, you also need to set up a backup system for your data so it can be recovered quickly if necessary. Since you never know if a natural disaster could damage your property and the contents within, it is a good idea to backup your data to a server that is offsite. You will want to set up your system so that new data is automatically transmitted to the backup server, so you can recover all important information immediately after a disaster or cyber attack.
A smart move that could help you in more ways than one is turning to a cloud computing provider. Transitioning all of your operations to the cloud means you cut down on the need for physical office space, and your staff can access the programs they need from anywhere. Best of all is that the provider can help you automatically backup your data while its in-house security team ensures that this information remains safe and secure. This way, your company can continue without a hitch if the corporate office is impacted.
Communication is Key
Proper communication will be essential if disaster strikes. You will need to reach out to your employees, customers, and likely, the media, and you will want to have a plan ahead of time so you aren’t caught off guard when trouble hits. For starters, you will want to have a phone number on file for every employee, so that they can be reached immediately. In the case of a disaster, send out a message as soon as possible that informs your staff of the incident and encourages them to reach out if they are hurt or need accommodations.
You can be proactive and encourage your employees to download a disaster alert app to their phone that will inform them of impending storms or other negative situations of which they should be made aware. You should also provide your employees with a secure phone line to the human resources department and encourage them to call whenever they need to if they cannot make it to work or the natural disaster is negatively impacting them in other ways that you were not prepared for.
After ensuring that your staff is okay, you will want to send at least one message to your customers that provides an update on the status of your company and when you might continue operations. The best way to get your message out to a broad audience is through email or social media. These posts should include contact information if customers have questions and alternate ways of accessing your goods or services if your main system is down. Once your business is back to regular operations, send your customers a follow-up email to welcome them back.
Most businesses have enough to keep them busy without having to also worry about natural disasters and other unforeseen issues. However, the preparation must be done. By working out the kinks of your disaster plan now, you will have more confidence when dealing with the unknown.
Guest post courtesy of Noah Rue