Do You Have an Emergency Plan?
November 14, 2013
Do You Have an Emergency Plan?
Being prepared for disaster — natural or manmade — makes business sense
Fire. Flood. Theft. Hacker attack. The odds aren’t in your favor. According
to a survey conducted by Continuity
Insights magazine and KPMG Risk Advisory Services businesses will experience
a “significant crisis” — hurricane, wildfire, tornado, power outage, flood,
cyber breach — in any given year. An estimated 25% of companies affected by a
disaster never reopen, according to the
Insurance Information Institute.
Having a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is essential for effective loss
prevention and recovery from unpredictable catastrophes. The motto “Be prepared”
applies as much to the business world as it does in the wilderness. Since many
risks cannot be insured, developing a disaster preparedness program and
investing in system safeguards may be the only way to manage those risks.
Here are points to consider:
Identify vulnerable assets
Instead of trying to imagine every possible manmade or natural threat to your
locale, zero in on which of your assets, if lost, would present the greatest
threat to your company’s survival. Is it a network of computer servers storing
valuable customer data or a warehouse full of inventory? Or is it the ability to
take orders by phone, respond to emails or host an e-commerce website that
generates all of your revenue?
Among the disaster preparedness guidelines in the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA)
Business Protection Toolkit is a self-audit questionnaire to help you
consider all of your vulnerabilities.
Protect Your People
The safety of your employees, customers, visitors, contractors and others who
could be at risk of hazards at your facility should be a top priority. Your
local public emergency services officials are an excellent resource for
developing evacuation and lockdown plans. The Department of Homeland Security
FEMA Ready.gov website has a
sample emergency plan you can use as a guide in preparing your company’s
Business Continuity and Disaster Preparedness Plan.
Organize an internal group to develop an emergency contact call tree,
designate an off-site meeting place, conduct staff training and drills and
maintain proper emergency supplies on-site. The group should also put together a
kit that includes blueprints for key facilities and an emergency contact list
with numbers for fire and police departments, trauma specialists and other
Secure your systems
Have a backup plan and a backup of your backup plan. FEMA notes that disaster
survivors typically wait up to 72 hours before help arrives. This makes it
essential that your business is prepared to be self-sufficient for those first
If data and documents are among your key assets, consider backing up to the
cloud to determine if it’s right for your business. For example, an
architectural firm whose computer network is destroyed in a fire could get
blueprints and other key assets back if it automatically backed up its files to
the cloud. If downed phone lines would cause your customers to move quickly to a
competitor, you can also ensure that your phone service is virtualized in the
cloud to increase the likelihood that your main business line remains active.
Set up a backup facility
What if your workspace is destroyed? Do you have another office location
equipped with what you need to keep your business running? Implementing a
virtual private network enables employees to work from home, when it’s safe
to do so, and access office documents as well as customer and vendor contact
information from anywhere they can log in.
If your business relies on heavy computing power, cooling or heating systems
and other electric-powered equipment, you likely already have a backup power
source. But generators are known to fail at the most inconvenient times. Test
your systems regularly and secure them from the same kinds of disasters that
could knock out your main power.
Set aside funds
Have some money in an emergency fund and try to determine each unexpected
cost that could result from a disaster. Plan for as many contingencies as
possible. Keep some petty cash on hand — having a corporate card, business line
of credit or bank account for immediate expenses, plus travel and lodging is
good, but it’s always good to have cash on hand.
Keep your plan updated
Once your Business Continuity and Disaster Preparedness Plan is finalized,
it’s common practice to share a summary of the plan with stakeholders and
partners, but keep the details within your organization for safety’s sake. Each
time you review your strategic business plan, consider how the changes will
affect your emergency planning. New products, raw materials, acquisitions,
suppliers and employees typically affect all strategic initiatives, including
Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS):
OFB-EZ™ (Open For Business-EZ), business continuity planning toolkit
Additional business and disaster preparedness resources are available at