Can your business last without electricty, phones, employees, or customers for days or even weeks on end? If there is an emergency that affects your business, then that is what your business is facing. The question is will you be prepared for such an emergency?
The loss of utilities, debris clogged roads, and some employees being unable to report to work are some of the common effect of a disaster. In the rare case of a pandemic flu outbreak, how will your business be impacted with a 30% to 40% absenteeism? Or how about the loss of facilities due to a wind storm or other major issue?
Your business is a vital part of our community. It is important to you, to your employees, to your customers, to the city, and to the county. We encourage you to do all you can to protect it against an emergency, just like you would protect if from burglars, fraud, and down swings. Creating an emergency plan for your business may be easier than you think and will be a great benefit to you and your company in the event a major emergency occurs. Going through the emergency planning process can help your business recover from emergencies faster, safeguard your employees and provide guidance on your response to extraordinary circumstances.
It might be helpful to form a committee of managers and employees of your company to help you in the emergency planning efforts and any responses that might be needed. It may also be helpful to join your local Chamber of Commerce and create a committee with your fellow business leaders as well.
An analysis of the risks that you face should be one of the first tasks the committee should perform. The committee should consider natural hazards such as severe weather and manmade hazards like utility disruptions, chemical spills, etc. Look for hazards that are both external and internal to your company. The American Red Cross has developed a FREE tool to help you called Ready Rating.
The committee should plan for two situations. The first being sheltering in place and the second being evacuation. To shelter in place during high winds, select a small interior room on the lowest level possible away from doors and windows. If evacuation is in order, consider the critical tasks that must be completed before leaving, if safe to do so. Do not forget to plan for your customers and/or visitors in your plan.
It will also be helpful if your plan includes an alternate worksite if your main one becomes unavailable. This may include allowing employees to work from home or other unaffected locations.
There are many other things to consider, however each business and location is unique and therefore it will be left to you and your committee to identify and plan for these vairables. Don't forget to use community resourses, such as your Emergency Management department, local law enforcement, etc., to help identify these variables.
Memorializing your plan in writing will give you documentation to review and update periodically, train new employees, etc.
The Ready Business Toolkit series includes hazard-specific versions for earthquake, hurricane, inland flooding, power outage, and severe wind/tornado. Toolkits offer business leaders a step-by-step guide to build preparedness within an organization and is available for free from Ready.Gov.