used with permission from SBA.gov
by Bridget Weston Pollack
As summer turns to fall, it’s easy to get caught up in seasonal activities like choosing Halloween costumes, picking apples and pumpkins, or for small business, even getting ready for the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.
But if a disaster struck your business, would you be ready? Seasonal changes provide an ideal time to check your business’s emergency preparedness plans, especially for weather-related emergencies. FEMA reports that between 40 and 60 percent of small businesses never reopen following a disaster. Blocking out some time on a quarterly basis to think proactively about unexpected and unfortunate events can help your business stay strong through difficult times.
Review your emergency preparedness plans each quarter
“Defeating Downtime, Keep Your Business Weatherproof,” a SCORE webinar with Jennifer Shaheen of Technology Therapy Group, Shaheen reminds us that no matter how big or small your business, every company has essential supplies and equipment. “Make a list of items your business can’t survive without,” she advises, by taking an inventory of important equipment and breakables. You may have taken a similar inventory in the past when you obtained or updated your insurance policy. But a routine check of essential items and expensive tools accounts for any new pieces of equipment or changes to your business.
Once you take inventory, think about how your business operates. In the event you need to be away from your business longer than a day, what information can you not live without? What hardware, software, or pieces of equipment do you need to use all the time? Focus on these elements of your business as you prepare for various emergency scenarios.
As we move into colder months, being ready for emergencies means preparing for more than just snow days. Power outages, reduced access to area roads and facilities, auto accidents, and employee illness are all common winter threats to your business says Mark Norton from Agility Recovery in another SCORE webinar, “Winter Weather Preparedness.”
Now’s the time to: review insurance coverage; compile contact information for your building owner, insurance company, plumber, or snow removal service; establish an inclement weather attendance policy for employees; and discuss the many scenarios that could slow down your business. Don’t keep these plans a secret from your team — rather, involve them in the preparation process. “The better prepared your staff is for recovery, the better prepared your organization will be as a result,” Norton advises.
Plan for internal and external emergency communication
Once your team knows how to handle an emergency, review how you’ll share the status of your business with the public in the event you can’t operate as planned. Make sure you can access your business website and social media accounts remotely or by mobile device so you can post your operating status.
If there’s a warning period before a threat like a snowstorm, start posting on those accounts to alert customers that your hours and functions may change depending on the forecast. It’s important for your internal team to communicate regularly throughout an emergency event, but you also need to notify customers, clients, and suppliers of those situations as well.
Turn to resources to help you anticipate emergency events
Don’t rush through or skip emergency planning. Take time to review each part of your company’s plans, and be sure to consider and plan for new threats.
Looking for a checklist to help keep you organized and recognizes threats you might not have considered? PrepareMyBusiness.org offers a variety of emergency planning worksheets, and SCORE’s Disaster Planning Guide can help you identify risks and prepare for the potential impact of a variety of unexpected events.
Have an unusual circumstance and can’t figure out how best to prepare? Contact SCORE mentors for help. They’ve seen their share of unexpected events, and can help you think proactively now, so your business can thrive all winter long.