Disasters materialize in many forms, especially when Mother Nature is at the helm. While you can’t predict the unexpected, you can prepare for it. When the elements disrupt your business, be it a brief power outage or major structural damage, it can cost you lost profits and lost customers. Proactively developing a plan to manage and recover from such setbacks will help you return to business as usual much sooner than if you were trying to react in real time as a disaster develops.
The best way to do this? With a business continuity plan (BCP). It costs almost nothing to create, but is critical to recovering losses (and customers) after a major setback. A BCP outlines crucial steps to follow in the event of a disaster and aims to mitigate damage to the business. Consider the following steps to help protect your business if disaster strikes.
Perform a risk assessment
A thorough risk assessment prior to a disaster allows you to take a look at potential risks to your business, which will then help you assess whether there are any steps you can take to reduce the amount of damage if a crisis occurs. For example, if your business is in a potential flood zone, make sure electrical and HVAC systems are above the flood elevation levels. Class A roof coverings are ember-resistant to help protect against fires, and clear gutters reduce water damage to your roof, walls, and foundation.
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Prepare for the worst
The next step is to draft a preparation plan that outlines the actions to take during and after a disaster. The BCP should be informative and cover all the basics, flexible enough to handle any particular disaster, and include the most effective way to get your business back up and running as quickly as possible. Some preparedness steps to think about while developing your plan include:
• Create a list of basic building assets, such as the locations of fire extinguishers and maintenance panels
• Draft a checklist to keep you organized and effective throughout an emergency situation
• Have a plan in place to prevent food spoilage
• Identify the critical business functions that need to be completed to be operational
• Protect critically important computer files by having them backed up off-site and/or in a fireproof safe
• Meet with your insurance agent to ensure policies are up-to-date and with the appropriate coverages
• Designate roles and responsibilities to the appropriate staff members
Practice, test & revise
Test your disaster recovery plan periodically to review what is and is not working, revising as necessary. A BCP is a living document and should reflect best practices and operational changes as necessary. Additionally, routine testing ensures all employees understand what they should do and where they should go in the event of a disaster. When everyone understands their roles and expectations, it will lessen confusion and make for a more organized execution of the plan.
If a disaster strikes, the recovery process is your plan’s time to shine. Whether it’s simple or complex, the more prepared you are upfront, the better you can weather the storm. It pays (and saves) to have a BCP, and when the unthinkable happens, having a good insurance policy that kicks in when you need it can make a big difference. With the right coverage and a preventive plan, you and your customers can be confident that your business will recover.