Crisis Planning: You Can’t Do Too Much of It

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					    Crisis Planning: You Can’t Do Too Much of It
    The old adage—the best defense is a good offense—also applies to crisis planning. As a small
    business owner, you have to ask yourself some difficult questions about potential disasters:
    What if the “worst” did happen? How would it affect my business, my family, and my
    employees? Would we survive if the business were shut down for weeks, months, or perhaps
    the entire revenue season?

    The possibilities may not be pleasant to think about. But a proactive approach to managing
    potential disasters may help mitigate the effects on your business, and lessen the time and
    resources necessary to resume normal operations. Here are some tips for developing a crisis
    management strategy for your business:

     Begin by identifying potential hazards. Every part of the country is susceptible to some kind
      of natural disaster—hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and ice storms, to name but a few.
      Likewise, man-made disasters such as oil or chemical spills, fires, and civil unrest can occur
      almost everywhere. The fact that your area has not experienced such events is no
      guarantee that they cannot or will not happen eventually, and with little or no warning.
     Develop contingency plans to continue operations if your office, plant, or store is unusable.
      Assess the feasibility of operating out of your home or a nearby storefront, and what may
      be necessary to quickly transport critical items such as computers, inventory, and
      equipment. It may also be helpful to maintain a secure off-site inventory of any hard-to-
      replace parts or supplies.
     Take steps to ensure the safety of employees and customers. Every business should have
      an evacuation plan, even if you lease the space. Make sure that telephone numbers for an
      emergency are clearly posted, and that you have updated emergency contacts and essential
      medical information for all employees. Training staff members in CPR and first aid is also a
      worthwhile investment for any business.
     Perform a safety inventory of your business location. Ordinary items could cause problems,
      especially anything that can move, fall, break, or cause a fire. Make sure shelves are
      securely fastened, and that large, heavy objects are placed near the floor. Store important
      documents, back-up copies of computer records and software, and other vital information in
      a safe, fireproof container. Clean and test smoke detectors regularly, and change the
      batteries at least once a year.
     Have proper emergency equipment ready and accessible. You should have well-stocked
      first-aid kits, fire extinguishers, and fully charged batteries for things like portable
      telephones. If you have portable generators for emergency power, make sure that the fuel
      is fresh and safely stored to prevent possible fires. For locations that are vulnerable to
      recurring events such as hurricanes, maintaining a supply of appropriate materials such as
      plywood to protect large windows will free you from scrambling for these hard-to-find items
      at the last minute.
Review your business insurance coverage and make updates where necessary. At a minimum,
your coverage should be enough to get your business back in operation, and cover the
replacement cost of vital facilities. Also know what your insurance does not cover. For
example, most general casualty policies do not cover flood damage, and they may require
riders for windstorms, sewer backups, or earth movement. Business interruption insurance will
assist with ongoing expenses during a forced shutdown, and help you meet payrolls, pay
vendors, and purchase inventory until you return to full operation. And don’t overlook the
extraordinary costs of a disaster such as leasing temporary equipment, restoring lost data,
and hiring temporary workers.

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