How to Prepare Your Small Business for Disaster

Six workplace recovery tips to help your small business survive in the event of a disaster or emergency.
disaster recovery
Putting a formal plan into writing is pivotal when preparing a disaster plan for your small business. (Photo: zimmytws/Shutterstock)

Is your small business equipped to deal with and recover from a disaster?

Any type of disaster, whether manmade or natural, can be devastating to your company and can shut your doors permanently. In fact, according to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, approximately 25 percent of small businesses fail to reopen after a major disaster.

“Organizations wanting to achieve the level of resilience needed to address day-­to-­day challenges should implement a written program that allows them to continue operations should they face internal and external challenges from local or area­-wide disasters,” Dan Perrin, Senior Director of Workplace Recovery at Regus, said. Perrin helps businesses of all sizes plan, prepare and recover from unexpected events and natural disasters.

Dan Perrin

“It takes just one incident to permanently shut the doors of a company.” -Dan Perrin

He offers these tips for small business disaster preparedness:

Be prepared

Given all of the issues today’s businesses have to cope with, prepping for a disaster may not be considered urgent or necessary, Perrin said.

“While it may not be a top priority, many now defunct businesses can confirm, it takes just one incident to permanently shut the doors of a company,” he said.

Employees and management must stay focused on the day-­to­-day goals of the organization. “When faced with the devastation and interruption caused by a fire, flood, hurricane or manmade catastrophe, how a business approaches the disaster is sometimes as critical as having a plan at all,” Perrin said.

Conduct a business impact assessment

Consider each part of your business for the safety of personnel, documents and facilities. A detailed analysis will give you a starting point for knowing how to plan for an event that impacts your business.

“This analysis should address all functions of your business – from accounting to IT and from HR to supply chains. All of these areas should have their specific risks assessed,” Perrin said. “The safety of personnel, data and business­-critical documents should be analyzed to determine the impact of worse case scenarios.”

Develop a formal plan and put it in writing

Once these functional areas are defined, start developing a formal plan for how to protect and preserve them. Flexibility and creativity will come in handy here, according to Perrin. Practice and test the plan as much as possible; annually at a minimum.

“This program should be tested at least once per year to ensure employees, clients and supplier needs are considered.”

Identify a recovery team

Someone needs to be in charge in a disaster situation, but more than one person should fully understand the details of the plan, according to Perrin.

“Each key person should know what and where they should report when emergencies happen. If your recovery team knows the plan, the more likely it will be carried out successfully in the event of an actual disaster.”

Have multiple places to recover

Identify other places from which you could conceivably conduct your business in case your office was damaged. The most effective plan will have pre-­arranged, static, dynamic and ‘work at home’ recovery locations identified,” Perrin said.

Perrin explained that in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, many businesses without formal plans believed working from home was a sufficient plan.

“The prolonged power disruption caused by Hurricane Sandy illustrated the need for a more dynamic solution. While it can work for short­-term problems or for non-­essential staff, Sandy proved that organizations should have a formal plan to place key staff if and when a disaster happens,” Perrin said.

During Sandy, Perrin’s firm worked with more than 1,400 companies that were looking for nearby places for employees to work.

Go to the Cloud

Make sure your data is backed up. “Cloud computing makes it easy to keep your documents secure and allows you to access to them wherever you are. Cloud data storage is affordable, scalable and provides rapid access to data – allowing businesses to be functional within minutes,” Perrin said.

Regardless of your business type or size, when an unexpected event or disaster occurs and operations shut down, your business needs to recover as quickly as possible so you can continue providing services to your customers. Small businesses are especially vulnerable due to the potential for lost orders, reduced productivity and late invoicing due to technology outages. Fortunately, creating a disaster recovery plan can help you prevent or mitigate these losses.

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