The more proactive you are ahead of the actual event, the quicker you can return to normal operations in the aftermath.
Expect the Unexpected
Disasters come in many forms and often with little warning.
If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s this: catastrophe happens. As a business owner, you can’t necessarily predict or prevent a disaster, but you can prepare for one. And as a result, you may even be able to fend off some of its worst effects.
Disasters come in many forms and often with little warning. Big ones — hurricanes, pandemics, a disgruntled employee with a gun — get the greatest attention. But a small one — like simply losing power for a day or two — can wreak havoc on a workplace too.
Fortunately, we Floridians have a leg up when it comes to disasters. For six months of every year, we live with the real possibility of having to face down a hurricane and, as a result, we’ve learned to anticipate disaster and prepare for it. Orders to stock up and stay at home aren’t necessarily seen as restrictive; they’re just common sense.
Preparing for Disaster
As a business owner, there’s very little you can do to prevent a hurricane or pandemic. But you can certainly mitigate their effects on your business by taking proactive steps in advance. Here’s a list of actions you can take well ahead of launching your business:
Know the potential hazards you might face. Up until 2020, business owners in Florida were typically subject to two primary hazards: the natural kind, which includes hurricanes, floods, lightning strikes and sinkholes; and the man-made kind, such as fire, toxic chemical spills, civil unrest, gun violence, vandalism and terrorism. But in 2020, along with these, business owners were introduced to a brand new and potentially even more catastrophic hazard — a highly contagious virus, the likes of which we’d never known before. In a matter of weeks, it spread like wildfire from country to country across the world until even the United States, which had largely escaped the other so-called “worldwide” pandemics of recent years, fell victim to COVID-19. And not only were business owners affected, so too were their clients/customers and supply chains.
Create a contingency plan. What if a hurricane blows the roof off your workplace or it’s leveled altogether? Could you operate out of a nearby warehouse? A storefront? Your own garage? What if the culprit that shuts down your operation is a highly contagious airborne disease? Could your employees work from their individual homes? How would you communicate with customers? Suppliers? One another? As individual states began to issue stay-at-home orders in March 2020, thousands of companies across the U.S. scrambled to develop contingency plans on the fly. Now, as you work toward launching a business of your own, you need to create just such a plan for your people and processes. And don’t forget to back up all computer files and store them off-site or on the cloud so that you have ready access.
Protect your most valuable assets – the people you employ. Be ready to vacate your premises at a moment’s notice. In preparation for a natural or man-made disaster, develop an evacuation plan that includes access to shelters, hospitals and other emergency services. Post emergency phone numbers in prominent places. Maintain up-to-date emergency contact and essential medical information for all employees. If, due to a pandemic, you must send your employees home to work, try to replicate a “9-to-5 day-in-the office” if possible, but keep in mind that, in addition to work responsibilities, your employees may have added burdens such as home-schooling their children or caring for elderly family members. Be flexible.
Conduct a safety inventory. Regularly clean and test protective devices such as smoke detectors and fire alarms on premises; change batteries at least once a year. Have well-stocked first-aid kits on hand. Make sure all fire extinguishers are operational and fully charged. Keep a ready supply of all types of batteries used in your business. Consider purchasing a portable generator to provide emergency power.
Review your insurance coverage now. Do you have enough coverage to get your business back in operation at the earliest possible date? Does your policy cover the replacement cost of buildings, contents and essential facilities? Are you insured against wind, floods, business interruptions? If not, maybe you should be.
Pre-plan for repairs. Don’t wait until a storm or pandemic has passed to start shopping for repairs; become a “preferred customer” now. Build a network of reliable repair services and suppliers well before you need them to avoid being placed on a lengthy wait list when you do.