Special to the Tribune-Star
TERRE HAUTE —
Due to recent events, I began to ponder just how many companies have a disaster plan in the case of a natural disaster, fire, etc. Four out of 10 businesses do not reopen after a disaster. That excludes technical infrastructure disasters, as that percentage is significantly higher. Another 25 percent of businesses fail within one year after the disaster according to FEMA, and 90 percent fail within two years of a natural disaster. During such times of uncertainty emergency preparedness is critical. Being prepared will not only help you navigate during the short time after the disaster, but it will help you survive and have a greater likelihood of success in the long-term.
How can a business survive?
1. The easiest way to test the level of your preparation is to work from home one day. With your office “off limits,” what is the scope of your ability to perform tasks and items remotely? How much information do you have backed up from your home office? Networks? Data? Client and supplier files?
2. What are your essential needs to operate and continue business? You should have an office discussion about what each employee needs. For example, is it imperative that you have access to email, calendars and archived files? Do you need access to forms and documents? It is recommended that you put together a worst-case scenario so that if a flood, fire or other disaster occurs you will know how to continue functioning in your business.
3. Designate leaders. Depending on the size of your company, have leaders appointed for various parts of operations and ensure they are trained regularly. In times of emergencies, employees will be stressed, overwhelmed and distraught and may not remember what they are supposed to do. You will need to have the leaders guide the employees under their realm of responsibility.
4. Communication. Plan to send all employees some sort of communication or multiple forms of communication to alert them to the emergency. This could be text messages, automated phone calls, email blasts or social media.
5. It’s Cloud Time. Be sure all your data is backed up on a remote server. Using something like Drop Box or Cloud will help retain all your company files and permit you to continue to work whether you have electricity or not.
6. Find alternative locations. Where can you base your office operations if your current office is destroyed?
7. Worker safety. This is really the most important. Make sure you have done everything you possibly can to ensure that your workers are safe.
There is much to consider for businesses regarding a disaster. Be sure to include emotional impact. Although your workers are safe and you have a disaster plan, be sure to be flexible with your operations. For example, onsite child care may need to be a temporary option until your community slowly comes back together.
Regardless, after the wake of what happened in Oklahoma, you can understand the critical importance for businesses to have a backup operational plan — especially since we never know what curve balls Mother Nature may throw our way.
Heather (Penney) Strohm is the regional director for Indiana State University’s Indiana Small Business Development Center.