September is National Preparedness Month, an annual awareness effort designed to highlight the importance of being ready for the many kinds of emergencies that can impact all of us. For small and medium-sized business owners and managers, now is a good time to make sure you have a comprehensive disaster preparation and recovery plan in place. Consider this: without preparation, a single disaster or infrastructure failure could cripple your company, inflicting financial damage from which your organization may never recover.
Today, preparedness is a global affair. The rapid rise of e-commerce has allowed even the smallest businesses to reach customers abroad, and dedicated express shipping options have allowed goods to move more rapidly than ever before around the world. But at the same time, companies have opened themselves to the risks associated with disasters that occur in other regions of the world. In other words, your company must not only be ready for a hurricane, flood, or IT crisis that affects your base of operations; you must also be ready for the supply chain interruptions that arrive when a disaster strikes halfway around the world.
With this in mind, here is what you can do to prepare:
Develop an emergency preparedness plan
Depending on where your company operates, you may be threatened by the effects of one or several of the following events: hurricanes, floods, winter storms, wildfires, earthquakes and tornadoes. A good preparedness plan will determine how to keep your employees safe while also protecting your physical assets, communications systems, and critical business and financial documents. Your efforts should include a thorough review and understanding of your business insurance coverages. There are many resources available to help.
As part of your overall strategy, you should have an emergency communications plan to allow for quick contact with employees and company stakeholders – to check on their safety, ensure that they are up to date on the status of operations, and confirm that they are fulfilling any special duties during an emergency. You can learn more here.
Understand that disasters take many forms
Your preparedness plans should also address the potential effects of cyber attacks and IT infrastructure failures. Ultimately, your organization should also take a comprehensive approach to preventing these kinds of events.
Test your plan
At least once a year, test your plan, starting with the communications system that will allow you to reach all employees quickly in the event of a disaster. During the test, check to see that all employee contact information is correct. Next, test your planned procedures for moving or safeguarding physical equipment, and then check that your IT backup systems are working and that all insurance documents are up to date and accessible after an event.
Focus on recovery
Preparedness means that you need to be able to weather a storm, and also recover from it. Your plans should include special considerations for IT disaster recovery, along with a financial plan to restore operations and rebuild infrastructure.
Consider global business interruption plans
While bringing your products and services to a global audience promises new opportunities for growth, there are, of course, risks. One is the interruption of your supply chain that global natural disasters or geopolitical events can cause. Business insurance can help, but planning for redundancies in your supply chain and in your communications systems is key.
For most of us, the question is not whether our business will be affected by an emergency, but when. Through comprehensive preparedness planning, companies of all sizes can ensure that they can emerge from an event as unscathed as possible.
What is your company doing to prepare for the effects of natural disasters, cyber attacks and business interruption? Let us know on Twitter at @DHLUS.