6 Ways to Prepare for a Natural Disaster Nearly two-thirds of businesses do not have an emergency plan in place for responding to natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, or fires, according to an Ad Council survey. And up to 40 percent of businesses affected by a natural or human-caused disaster never reopen. So, while daunting on the surface, having a plan could make the difference between your business surviving or having to close the doors for good. Here are a few basic steps for developing a comprehensive business recovery plan: 1. Evaluate all potential hazards and possible impacts to the business. Identify anything in your vicinity or region that could stop you from doing business. Is your business located in a flood plain or in an area with high fire potential? Are tornadoes, hurricanes, or earthquakes likely to occur? What can you do to minimize the possibility or impact of a disruption? Do you have enough insurance to aid you in recovery if it does happen? 2. Develop a recovery strategy to address the most likely threats, as well as lines of authority. Things to consider with your strategy: Who is best to evaluate the impacts of the disruption and estimate the time needed for recovery? Who makes the decision to close the office if that is needed? Where is the most likely place for recovery? What are the most critical functions that must be recovered immediately? 3. Develop crisis communication plans for customers and employees. First, identify who should be contacted and how, allowing for multiple contact options. Gather the contact information and develop generic scripts that can be edited at time of disaster to speed up notification. Next, determine who contacts employees or clients in the event of an emergency. Which executives or team authorizes the message to be used? When should legal be involved? 4. Develop plans that identify what is needed during a relocation of operations. Identify applications, systems, and resources needed for recovery. Do you have a secondary work location that could be used in the event of an emergency? Are there backups of your computer records that are mirrored or off-site and accessible? Where are employees assigned to work if their normal work environment is not available? Make a simple checklist of tasks for each department to add to these plans and decide who authorizes activation of the plans. 5. Share the plan with employees. Be available for any questions and encourage employees to develop their own disaster preparedness plan for their home. Hold a training class or lunch and learn on personal emergency preparedness. 6. Conduct training for your team leaders and their backups. The training plan should include frequent communications on specific plan provisions and actions teams should consider. Conduct regular practice drills for shelter in place, evacuations, or medical emergencies. Conduct table top exercises where the teams discuss actions they would take based on a given scenario. Make an emergency kit for your work areas that is easy to access in the event of a disaster. Once you have your plan in place, revisit it at least semi-annually, especially for those emergency contact numbers. For more information on disaster preparedness, www.ready.gov is an excellent and free resource for families and businesses. Need more help? Contact your industry association for ideas and resources. You can also outsource much of the heavy lifting to a freelancer with expertise. Are you prepared for a natural disaster? Vicky McKim Vicky McKim is 1 of 125 professionals internationally to hold her level of certification. She is a Certified Risk Management Professional, holds a Master Business Continuity Professional Certification and is an Associate Fellow of the Business Continuity Institute. Vicky has 30 years of experience in the field of risk management, business continuity, and disaster recovery, including BCM Program Director for two global organizations. Vicky has spoken and taught at national, regional, and local conferences for more than 15 years. Her experience provides her audience with a proven perspective on how to improve risk controls and continuity for their business operations, along with many practical examples of what the next steps may look like. Vicky's stories and practical guidance empower those listening to take action to create more resilient environments for their workplace.