Before Disaster Strikes

by Mike Hunter

Before Disaster Strikes

Natural disasters can devastate communities and cause significant disruptions for local companies, particularly small and medium-sized businesses. As organizations look to minimize the business impacts of natural disasters, company leaders should consider preparing in advance to help their company weather the storm.

Make a plan. Business leaders and managers should develop, finalize and distribute an emergency response plan well in advance of a disaster. This strategy helps ensure all managers and employees know what to expect when faced with a crisis and outlines clear expectations and roles in the wake of a disaster. This plan should include a clear chain of command, necessary emergency functions and responsibilities, specific evacuation procedures and processes for checking in with employees during an emergency.

Insure for regional threats. Company owners should communicate regularly with insurance agents to ensure policies are up to date and reflect the necessary coverage for regional disasters, such as hurricanes, wildfires or flooding. By assessing the types of disasters that are most likely to impact operations, business leaders and their insurers can protect the company and its employees, potentially saving money in the future.

Protect important data and documents. Losing key business documents can be devastating for companies of any size, but particularly for small and medium-sized businesses. To prepare for the worst, leaders and managers should work with teams to ensure all important documents are stored securely and digitally to ensure safety. This strategy also allows staff members to access documents remotely, enabling them to stay connected from safe locations in the event of a disaster.

Build a network of support. Teams at small and medium-sized businesses can sometimes feel more like a family than just co-workers. To ensure all team members are supported in the event of an emergency, managers may consider creating a system to contact all employees during a disaster to ensure their safety and determine any immediate needs. If possible, companies may also consider establishing employee support funds and processes to provide financial, emotional and physical support to any team members who may be impacted by crisis.

Keep customers informed. Just as it is important to communicate with internal teams, companies should also have a strategy in place to share updates with clients and customers in the event of an emergency. This system may utilize direct email outreach, social media or phone calls, where needed. To prepare for a crisis, it may be helpful to create templates for sharing any changes to standard business hours, safety and travel conditions around the business location and impacts to remote customer service availability.

Preparing for a disaster situation can feel harrowing, but having plans and processes in place can help businesses cope with the aftermath. Implementing policies and procedures well in advance of an emergency can enable managers to efficiently navigate the situation while providing needed support to employees, customers and other members of the community.

Kelly Chance is manager of HR services at Insperity, which provides an array of human resources and business solutions designed to help improve business performance.


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