By Michael Klein
It pays to have a plan in place for business continuity and recovery.
Small businesses are among the most affected by hurricanes as they often lack sufficient cash flow to survive a prolonged interruption of their operations and because they have limited resources to prepare for natural disasters and unexpected emergencies.
It is thus all the more important for small companies to effectively plan for disaster recovery and business continuity.
Preparing such a plan is not only the least expensive tool one can use to prepare for disasters, if done properly it will also save thousands of dollars in the event of a disaster.
Planning will cover elements of what to do to recover from a hurricane and other disasters and how to ensure that a business can continue until the recovery is achieved. The aim is to protect both the business and employees.
ALTERNATIVE LOCATION AND BACK-UP SITE
Firstly, businesses need to identify the tools that are necessary for operations to continue. It is important to prioritize critical business functions and determine how quickly they will have to be recovered.
The plan must further list critical equipment, including personal computers, laptops, servers and software. Then an alternative location should be identified where employees can work off-site and access critical records, supplies and backup systems.
PROTECT PROPERTY AND DATA
Any existing property insurance covers should be reviewed and other available insurance options, such as business interruption coverage, assessed well ahead of the start of hurricane season.
Contact information for staff, suppliers, vendors, customers, as well as company records and computer systems have to be backed up in such a way that they are accessible after a disaster. This should include anything from legal documents, banking details and documents, to utility bills, leases, tax returns and human resources documentation.
When a hurricane warning is issued, the property and company equipment must be properly secured.
PREPARE EMPLOYEES AND COMMUNICATION
Businesses need to ensure that they have reliable methods of communicating with staff during and after a disaster, including an emergency communication line which employees and their families can use to obtain status reports and information about available assistance. To this effect, establish an employee alert roster which will be used to notify employees that the company’s hurricane plan has been activated. It can also be used to check on the status of employees during and after a hurricane.
In addition, it is key to identify the personnel without whom the business cannot function. For each person, a method of contact must be determined for a situation when the normal means of communication such as phone or email are not available during an emergency. The plan should further identify which employees can work from home and ensure that those members who are absolutely critical can work from a home office.
Responsibilities have to be assigned to each member of staff and documented in a plan so it can be easily determined who is doing what. This information has to be disseminated to all employees.
COMMUNICATE WITH CUSTOMERS
Businesses further need to ensure that key customers know the emergency contact information for sales and service support and the backup business locations. Publishing this information on your website and through social media is typically the most effective way to do so.
MANAGE YOUR MONEY
In the event of a hurricane, businesses will often face cash flow needs. Businesses should plan for payroll continuity and available bank accounts should have emergency funds available. Most importantly, enough cash should be on hand to meet immediate needs.
Credit cards and checkbooks have to be kept in a safe but accessible place. If necessary they can be issued to key staff to cover emergency expenses.