Guest Contributor: Dana Eness – Executive Director of The Urban Conservancy
In coastal Louisiana, we all get a little edgy as hurricane season starts gearing up. But businesses throughout Louisiana are susceptible each and every day to sources of productivity loss that are much less obvious, and much more likely, than a hurricane. Power outages, fires, leaks, and even anticipated events with long-term benefits like street repairs can wreak havoc on the small business that has not developed safeguards against such potentially devastating–and all-too-likely–occurrences. In addition, events that occur far from our place of business can have devastating and unanticipated consequences. US businesses involved in everything from shipbuilding to the auto industry and from smart phones to solar panels continue to suffer the effects of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan that disrupted supply chains. Finally, businesses dependent on state or federal contracts can look to the Minnesota shut-down and the FAA funding extension stand-off as recent examples of how quickly politics can bring “business as usual” to a grinding halt.
By creating a plan that is flexible enough to deal with a variety of emergencies, even very small businesses can manage disasters of any magnitude or duration. Here are a few tips.
Know Your Business
Know what kinds of emergencies–both natural and man-made–might affect your company both internally and externally.
- Identify your suppliers, shippers, resources and other businesses you must interact with on a daily basis.
- Develop professional relationships with more than one company to use in case your primary contractor cannot service your needs. A disaster that shuts down a key supplier can be devastating to your business.
- Create a contact list for existing critical business contractors and others you plan to use in an emergency. Keep this list with other important documents on file, in your emergency supply kit (www.ready.gov/ business/plan/emersupply.html) and at an off-site location.
- Plan for payroll continuity.
- Review your emergency plans annually. Update it as needed to remain relevant as your company changes.
- Employees: Your employees and coworkers are your business’s most valuable asset. Use newsletters, staff meetings, and other internal communication tools to periodically remind staff of emergency plans and procedures. Be clear on how their jobs may be affected. Be prepared to provide employees with information on when, if and how to report to work following an emergency. Set up a telephone call tree, password-protected page on the company website, an email alert or a call-in voice recording to communicate with employees in an emergency.
- Management: Provide top company executives with all relevant information needed for the protection of employees, customers, and vendors.
- Customers: Update your customers on whether and when products will be received and services rendered.
- Other Businesses/Immediate Neighbors: Be prepared to give competing and neighboring companies a prompt briefing on the nature of the emergency so they may be able to assess their own threat levels.
Check and Update Your Insurance Coverage
Inadequate insurance coverage can lead to major financial loss if your business is damaged, destroyed or simply interrupted for a period of time. Insurance policies vary; check with your agent or provider.
- Meet with your insurance provider to review current coverage for such things as physical losses, flood coverage and business interruption. Make sure you understand what your deductible is.
- Consider how you will pay creditors and employees.
- Plan how you will provide for your own income if your business is interrupted. • Find out what records your insurance provider will want to see after an emergency and store them in a safe place.
While there is no single prescription that works for every business to safeguard it against periodic disruptions, every effective continuity plan is an opportunity to take a critical look at existing business practices and make the necessary improvements to ensure that you continue to be as productive as possible even when faced with less than optimum conditions, whether they blow in from the Gulf or leak down from the office above yours.← News and Insights