7 Tips for Creating an Emergency Preparedness Plan for Your Business
Natural disasters, cybersecurity threats, and health crises can devastate a small business. These unexpected, uncertain scenarios may even lead to a business’s demise if not adequately prepared for.
Identifying your company’s biggest risks and outlining emergency responses can set your company on track to remedy a disaster scenario. Emergency preparedness plans can save your business money, time, and resources.
1. IDENTIFY YOUR BIGGEST RISKS
Every business needs to identify their biggest risks, such as those associated with their products, their services, and their location, among other significant factors. For instance, a business located in the Midwest doesn’t need to prepare for a hurricane, such as one on the East Coast would. When it comes to natural disasters or harsh weather conditions, location determines what kind of preparations a company needs to make.
Besides natural disasters, cybersecurity threats pose a risk to any modern-day business. Simply having a website and performing transactions online may put a business at risk of being hacked, unless precautions are taken and recovery plans are made in advance. Companies can benefit from a self-managing inventory system, which could help ensure data accuracy and avoid miscounts.
2. FOCUS ON PREVENTION
Always try to prevent an emergency situation from occurring in the first place, rather than respond to it while it’s occurring. Although you may not be able to anticipate a natural disaster, there are other emergency situations you can prepare for and prevent, such as cybersecurity attacks.
To prepare for and potentially prevent cybersecurity attacks, businesses should:
- Use multi-factor authentication
- Create strong passwords
- Install, use, and regularly update antivirus and antispyware programs on every computer
- Download and install software updates
- Make backup copies of important documents
- Secure Wi-Fi networks
- Use a firewall for your Internet connection
- Regularly change passwords
Each of these practices either diminishes the likelihood of an attack or improves the responsiveness of a company.
Businesses should also consider implementing an inventory management software system capable of being accessed from any internet-connected device. If a natural disaster were to occur or a computer were to malfunction, having information that is accessible on multiple devices could prevent loss of important contact information or documents.
Installing equipment that can keep your company safe, such as fire suppression systems or chemical ventilation systems, can also help. These tools are essential to mitigating the effects of fires or gas leaks.
3. MAINTAIN EMERGENCY CONTACT INFORMATION
Businesses must maintain an up-to-date list of emergency contact information. Lists should be available to the company at large. In other words, managers and employees alike should be able to access this list. Having an accessible and widely distributed list will save time in the event of an emergency.
Emergency contact information includes:
- Local police department
- Local fire department
- Nearby hospital(s)
- Health officials: local, state, and national
- Disaster relief agencies
In addition to keeping a list of emergency personnel, businesses should also have contact information on hand for customers, suppliers, and distributors, as well as their own internal team
4. CREATE AN EMERGENCY KIT
Creating an emergency kit prepares business leaders to take care of their employees in the event of a natural disaster or other adverse situation. Kits should be accessible and easy to carry. Packing items in a backpack can help. Larger businesses may need to pack several emergency kits.
Items to include in an emergency kit include:
- Non-perishable food
- Battery-powered radio
- Extra batteries
- First-aid supplies
5. MAKE AN EVACUATION PLAN
Establish an evacuation plan in case of an emergency situation, such as a fire or natural disaster. Companies should designate primary and secondary evacuation routes. Evacuation routes should be well-lit and thoroughly mapped out. Inform employees of these routes beforehand to ensure they are understood and abided by in an emergency.
6. TRAIN AND EDUCATE EMPLOYEES
Employee knowledge is essential to an effective emergency preparedness plan. Each employee should be trained on this plan as a part of their onboarding, as well as regularly briefed on new practices. Training sessions should include evacuation routes, data security practices, and other company-specific policies. Including employees in the creation of an emergency preparedness plan may also help produce additional ideas and strategies.
7. REVISIT AND UPDATE YOUR PLAN
Lastly, companies should prioritize revisiting their emergency preparedness plans and refreshing them as needed. This could include adding emergency personnel information, strengthening training workshops for employees, or refilling emergency preparedness kits.
Another aspect of revamping a business’s emergency preparedness plans means adapting policies to consider current events, such as the impact of COVID-19. In this scenario, companies may want to consider implementing work-from-home policies or reaching out to healthcare organizations to conduct employee testing. These practices are key to running a business that is prepared for all of life’s adverse events.
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