Emergency Preparedness, Sustainability/Business Continuity

Preparing Your Business for Natural Disasters

Disasters are, for the most part, unpredictable, but there are steps that you can take that will improve your chances to survive and get back in business faster. Some of these measures require purchases while others can be completed in-house with the staff and materials at hand.

lightning storm

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Develop a Business Continuity Plan

The essential first step is to designate the individual(s) who will put together the plan for the company. The plan should:

  • Identify operations that are critical to the survival of the business.
  • Produce a business process flow chart.
  • Identify a succession of management, with names and contact numbers.
  • Ensure that systems are in place for emergency payroll, expedited financial decision-making, and accounting.
  • Identify suppliers, shippers, and other resources used on a regular basis.

The plan should include instructions on what the business will do if the current building is inaccessible. Is there an alternative location that may be available? Can you develop relationships with other companies to use their facilities in case of an emergency? Keep a list of contacts that are critical for your ongoing business. Look into alternative suppliers and contractors for back up.

Your planning team needs to outline crisis management procedures and train all individuals who will execute these procedures. The team should coordinate their plan with other businesses in the same building or industrial complex. The team should also discuss the plan with first responders and utility providers. Your company should review this business continuity plan yearly. As your business changes, so will your needs in an emergency.

It is recommended that you keep copies of all of your company information and contact lists at an off-site location. In addition, keep a backup of your company’s computer records off-site.

Find Out If You Need Insurance Coverage

As part of your emergency planning strategy, you should meet with your insurance provider to review your coverage. Make sure you know what is covered and what isn’t. Some policies cover damages, but do not include business interruption coverage. Consider which additional insurance you might purchase. Discuss which natural disasters are common to your area. Are you in a coastal area frequently hit by hurricanes? Are you in Tornado Alley? Are you in or near a floodplain susceptible to periodic high waters?

Communities that have adopted floodplain management regulations for areas prone to flooding may be participants in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). If your building is in the floodplain in a participating community, you are eligible to buy flood insurance through NFIP, which is sold by many local insurance agents.

Check on the likelihood of your property being flooded.

Assess Equipment

Your emergency planning team should conduct a room-by-room walk-through to determine whether heavy equipment is properly secured. Some equipment, cabinets, and bookcases can be anchored to walls. Heavy or breakable objects should not be stored on upper shelves. Also, where possible, elevate equipment off the floor to avoid electrical hazards in the event the area is flooded. Company inventory should also be elevated. If practical, workstations should be moved away from large windows.

Assess your heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system. Make sure that it is working properly and is well maintained. Consider using the highest filtration efficiency for your system. High efficiency particulate arrester (HEPA) filter fans can be effective in capturing tiny particles and keeping them from entering the building. Someone should be assigned the task of shutting down the HVAC system and should practice the procedure.

If your building has been flooded, it is important to have your HVAC system checked by a professional before turning it back on. Mold can grow inside very quickly, and if the system is then turned on, it will distribute the mold throughout the building.

If your building does not already have fire extinguishers and smoke alarms, purchase and install them. Additional safety equipment to consider includes automatic sprinkler systems, fire hoses, and fire-resistant doors.