How to Make Your Business Preparedness Plan
Keeping your business going after a disaster takes more than good luck and hoping for the best. Having a sound business preparedness plan in place may help you keep your doors open and get back to business as usual when the unexpected happens.
While no one can predict if or when a disaster may happen, it’s best to be proactive in protecting your company. Plan ahead and consider these five steps for creating a business preparedness plan:
Step 1: Establish Program Management
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), your preparedness plan should address the physical safety of anyone on the premises, including those with disabilities. You’ll also want to develop instructions for continuing business with minimal disruptions. To start your planning, FEMA suggests that you:
- Form a committee or department charged with developing and maintaining your business preparedness plan.
- Budget for whatever contingency plans the committee develops. (This may include reviewing your small business insurance coverage with your agent to determine if it fits your needs.)
- Identify any government or corporate regulations that may affect your plans, such as Occupational Safety & Health Administration requirements.
Step 2: Create a Plan
To start creating your business preparedness plan, FEMA suggests that the committee should:
- Gather information about hazards and assess risks. This should include determining events that are more likely to occur in your area — for instance, if your business is located in an area at risk of tornadoes or hurricanes.
- Conduct a business impact analysis to determine the likely consequences of a disruption in business (for instance, if you run a store that has to be closed for a week).
- Examine and consider ways to reduce risk and limit loss through mitigation plans.
Step 3: Implement Your Plan
To implement a preparedness program, FEMA states that you will need to identify resources, create plans for managing incidents and train employees to properly execute those plans. Ready.gov suggests that you craft a preparedness plan that addresses:
- Resource management: Assess what resources you might need if a disaster were to strike, from personnel to communications equipment to other needs, and make a plan to help ensure your business has everything it needs on hand.
- Emergency response: Conduct a risk assessment to help determine what types of emergencies are likely to occur, and make a plan that addresses how your business will protect people on the premises and stabilize the incident.
- Crisis communications: Know how you’ll get important messages to employees, customers and other stakeholders if an emergency strikes.
- Business continuity: Determine how you will keep your business running in the wake of an emergency.
- Information technology and data protection: Plan for how you’ll access your information technology systems and electronic data after an emergency.
- Employee assistance: Think about how you plan to communicate with employees and help support them after a disaster.
- Incident management: Coordinate all the efforts to manage your business’ response to an emergency.
- Training: Make sure your employees know what to do — just in case.
Step 4: Conduct Tests and Exercises
Test and evaluate your plan by conducting a variety of exercises to determine how well-versed your employees are in the plan and how effective it is. This phase may help you train personnel on their responsibilities and evaluate the established plans and procedures, says FEMA.
Step 5: Update and Improve Your Plan
FEMA recommends reviewing your preparedness plan periodically and making any necessary changes. Regular evaluations, such as annual or bi-annual testing, can be helpful in determining whether your plan needs updating. FEMA notes that times you may need to consider updating your continuity plan include:
- After assessing your company’s planned response to the testing exercises, determine any weak points, whether in the plan itself or execution of it. Ensure employees are fully trained in any changes made.
- In the event of an actual incident, conduct a thorough critique of the response and make improvements to the plan if necessary.
- Continue evaluations during times of normal operations. Remember that any major changes to the company or personnel may need to include a review of the emergency plan.
Hopefully your company will never experience a disaster, but having a plan in place may help you get your business back up and running if the unexpected happens.
Originally published January 27, 2015.