by Walt Capell, founder of General Liability Shop
The fact that September is disaster preparedness month is getting swept up in the news cycle because of the vast amount of natural disasters taking place throughout the United States. It is not just occurring in the United States, but also in several neighboring countries throughout the Western Hemisphere. The hurricanes are taking up the majority of the news cycle, but they are just a part of the natural disasters we are facing this month.
Earlier in September, Mexico experienced the strongest earthquake the country has seen in over a century. At the same time Texas is recovering from the largest flooding in a generation. Simultaneously, people in Oregon, Montana and Idaho are dealing with forest fires brought on by the driest conditions these states have seen in decades. If you are fortunate to live in a part of the country not impacted by these disastrous situations, now is a great time to develop a disaster preparedness plan for your family and for your business.
Here are 8 tips for developing an effective natural disaster preparedness plan for your business:
1. Evaluate what disasters you possibly face.
If you live in the Iowa, you do not need to prepare for a hurricane. If you live in Florida, you may not need to prepare for a snow storm. But it is a good idea to determine what disasters you may face and how you would respond if the worst of the worst were to occur. The most common natural disaster that businesses face includes hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, fires and snow/ice storms.
Depending upon where you are located, you may face some or all of these natural disasters. Determining what you do face and how best to prepare for dealing with that type of disaster will go a long way towards dealing with a natural disaster at your business.
2. Create a Disaster Preparedness Kit.
Once you have determined what disasters you actually face, then you should determine what supplies you should purchase in order to be properly prepared for those disasters. All disaster preparedness kits should include batteries, water treatment, canned foods, alternative communication tools and back up sources for power (such as PrimePowerSolution diesel generators). If you are living in an area where you expect to have to deal with extreme heat or extreme cold, a generator or some other way to help deal with the extreme temperatures.
3. Call your Insurance Agent.
Keeping an open line of communication with your insurance agent is always important. Now is a good time to talk to them about what coverages you have in place and what coverages you do not have that you may need. Remember that at times like now people who work in the insurance industry are more than likely a little busy right now. Once you do get through to them, you should have a long and honest conversation with them about what exactly your business does and does not do on a daily basis.
If you only have standard general liability insurance for small business in place, it may not be enough to protect your business when natural disaster strikes. Also, you should openly discuss all of the intricacies your business and your area face. The more information you give them the more thoroughly they can help you insure your business.
4. Develop a communication plan for your organization.
The key to having a successful communication plan is to have several ways in which you can communicate with your employees when you need to. Many people use their mobile device for all communication, but frequently when a disaster strikes, mobile communication systems are one of the first things to be impacted. Preparing for being able to use text message, email, phone calls and many other forms of communication is important. Once you have your plan in place, it is important to practice it periodically.
5. Know your staff.
Some staff may require special attention in the event they are stuck at work for an extended period. This may be the case for employees who have a disability and need help getting around. Other employees may have diabetes or have other health needs that will need to be addressed during the disaster.
Some of your staff may be first responders or have medical and first aid training. Knowing all of these factors beforehand can be very beneficial when your staff most needs it.
6. Create a Business Continuity Plan.
In the event you do face a natural disaster, you need to be prepared to have a business continuity plan in place. This plan should prepare you and your staff for when you have to interact with your customers and vendors who are not located in the immediate vicinity of the emergency area. You will find out very quickly that business keeps on going for businesses not impacted by the natural disaster.
If you have shipments to be sent or services to be rendered, you need to have a plan for how you are going to deal with these customers and vendors when you cannot meet your obligations because of the emergency. You may find you need to speak with an attorney and add language to your contracts that deals with payments and deliveries during a time of emergency.
7. Keep Vital Documents in a Safe and Secure Place.
Natural Disasters do not take vacations. If you happen to be on vacation when a natural disaster strikes, it is crucial that you have your key employees ready to take charge in the event of a natural disaster when you are not available. Making sure more than one person has access to the vital documents surrounding your business is important. This is important in the event you are not present when the disaster strikes, but also if one of those key employees moves on to another organization.
8. Find out how you can best help your community.
Many times when a disaster strikes, communities find that some members of the community are damaged more than other members. This is a time when your business and your staff have the opportunity to shine. People can have a stronger impact when they work together and using your business as a group who can help other businesses or other organizations within the community can help your community recover faster and strengthen the community within which you do business. The more you can help, the more likely that help will come back to your business in the future.
Walt Capell is the President and Owner of General Liability Shop, located in Columbia, MO. After starting General Liability Shop in 2005 Walt has developed a reputation of providing forward-thinking, out-of-the-box products and solutions for business owners. He would like to use his experience as a small business owner and insurance expert to benefit the next generation of leaders.