Accidents Happen: 4 Disaster Preparedness Tips
With disaster preparedness, businesses are likely to recover from major situations quicker than without it. Staff will have a clear idea of what their disaster response should be, and policies will be in place to restore the business.
1. Why Disaster Preparedness Matters
Disasters often happen when people least expect them, and it can be challenging to avoid them entirely. However, disaster preparedness can go far to help limit the damage caused. When the appropriate procedures are in place, workers will know how to respond, where to go, and what to bring.
Unfortunately, people often perish in disasters, and not following emergency plans can cause further losses. For instance, employees who decide to go home instead of meeting at designated areas put the lives of emergency workers at risk. They’ll search for them unnecessarily.
Often, people feel uncomfortable talking about disasters and would rather not think about them. However, they may happen, and being prepared is certainly better than scrambling due to lack of emergency preparedness.
When companies are prepared, employees feel confident about what to do. Thus, this confidence can lower stress among employees.
2. It’s More Than Just Natural Disasters: Common Disasters
When people hear the word disaster, they think immediately of natural ones. Hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes are great examples of these natural disasters. However, other disasters can occur that cause harm.
Because these other disasters aren’t discussed as much, preparing for them may get overlooked. If an incident does occur, people will be less clear about what to do.
The following sections describe some of the common situations that can happen.
Employee theft is a problem for many companies. It often starts with bending a few rules on occasion and stealing smaller items. When they get away with these smaller items, they tend to attempt to steal larger ones.
More companies are installing security cameras and putting procedures in place that help reduce the problem of employee theft. However, training employees will help them recognize the rogue actions of others.
Stealing physical items isn’t the only aspect of this crime. Rogue employees sometimes attempt to steal trade secrets and other sensitive information. They are often seen as trusted employees, which makes the situation harder to detect.
Companies that produce dangerous products can be subjected to accidents. These accidents can cause explosions or chemical spills. The damages can often be lost human lives and physical damage to equipment.
These types of disasters often are scrutinized by local officials and the community. A company can expect investigations as to why it happened. The local municipalities may even regulate such companies to implement proper procedures and publish them.
In 2003, the northeast United States and parts of Canada experienced a power outage that lasted for an extended period. Some areas got power back that same day. For others, however, the problem lasted for weeks.
An overload of the grid caused the outage. If your business wasn’t affected by this, you should realize that it could happen again. This is why planning is crucial. Can your business afford to be without its main power source?
Many businesses have emergency backup power. However, with the exception of hospitals and other critical services, backup power is not usually meant for long-term outages.
Terrorism and Cyberthreats
The 9/11 attacks alerted the United States that terrorism can occur anywhere. Before that attack, no one suspected the country would be the target of an incident of that scale.
Foreign attacks aren’t the only threat, either. Local terrorism acts also occur, including shootings by employees, among others.
Terrorism is also a growing concern in the cyberspace. Malware has been infecting computers and networks for a while, and ransomware is a growing threat. These attacks can paralyze a company weeks.
Data Breaches and Identity Theft
Although this item is related to cyber threats, it differs in that it doesn’t cripple the operations of the company. With this disaster, sensitive information is stolen with the intent to use it for the personal gain of the thieves. When this information winds up in the wrong hands, it is often used for identity theft.
For example, in 2017, sensitive data was stolen from Equifax, one of the big three credit agencies. The company tried to cover up the incident but ended up having to pay hefty fines.
In 2018, the European Union passed legislation called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in an attempt to keep online data safe. The regulation specifies rules for reporting when a breach occurs, and it requires companies to initiate safeguards to reduce the chances of breaches.
3. How To Be Prepared And Aware
When you prepare for disasters, you can often limit the damage that occurs. This will help keep your employees safer and comforted.
Being prepared usually entails developing a basic disaster plan, which can be the guidelines used by your team. When you have your disaster workforce plan, you can implement training for your employees. This will help them stay aware of any situations that seem out-of-place.
It pays to run through different what-if scenarios to test your plan. If you find that some aspects are out of date, you can make changes as needed.
Develop A Disaster Preparedness Plan
When developing your plan, determine the potential risks. It doesn’t make sense to plan for disasters that have little chance of happening. You cannot account for every scenario. However, you can put the odds in your favor by assessing the likelihood of each.
Make a list of possible threats and the impact of those threats to your business. Focus on items that could cripple your business. Then, list items that may disrupt your business, but are more inconvenient than crippling.
The risk assessment can be used as a disaster preparedness checklist to help you when disasters occur. Some situations may cause you to improvise, however.
Train Your Employees
Planning won’t do much good if your employees aren’t ready when disasters happen. Without the proper disaster preparedness training, they’ll panic and make the situation worse.
Use the plan to help create the appropriate training for your situation. A good place to start is on the Homeland Security website. Although the instruction is geared towards communities, it has information that’s useful to businesses, too. The online training modules are free, making it convenient for your employees.
In addition, you should work with emergency response teams in your business’s area. They may give you guidance on where to find appropriate training. Ask them about custom training for your business, if necessary.
Practice What-If Scenarios
Some plans look good on paper, but when you project how they’ll work with different scenarios, you can look for weaknesses in the plans. By practicing what-if scenarios, your team will raise questions about procedures and whether the plan contains enough information.
Be sure to include plans for your data and computing requirements. What-if scenarios can help you discover vulnerabilities within these systems. You can use these scenarios to help fortify your backup plans and recovery. It can also help you develop procedures for contacting customers and authorities when information is stolen.
Consistently Update Your Plan
Your business needs change, which could cause different scenarios to form regarding disaster preparedness. You could move to another location or go through a growth phase. Planning for a small group of people is different than large groups.
Technology changes frequently, and that can alter how you conduct your preparedness for disasters. For instance, smart building technology can help companies detect adverse situations faster and more accurately than in the past. It can even alert emergency response teams when problems occur.
When updating your plan, it pays to alert the town and emergency response teams. Disasters require coordination with these entities, and the more they learn about your plans, the better.
4. Scout’s Motto: Be Prepared
If you were ever involved in scouts, you know the importance of being prepared, which is crucial for businesses. You’ll help your employees, your community, and the business itself. Being prepared sets the expectation in your company that you care about the well-being of your staff.
At Fora Financial, we can help you be prepared for many situations. If you’re having trouble getting funding for your business, we can help. We have several funding resources to help small business owners. Get a free quote today from one of our Capital Specialists.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should companies seek outside help for disaster preparedness?
Small business owners may feel that hiring a consulting group to help create a disaster preparedness plan costs too much money. However, the right plan will end up costing less should a disaster occur. Also, a qualified company can structure custom plans for businesses that have special needs, like chemical spills, etc.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.