Violence and weather in the past 10 years seem more commonplace than they have otherwise been in this century in the Americas. But these commonplace disasters can devastate or even end our small businesses. Entrepreneur magazine estimates that an average of 25% of businesses do not recover after a disaster. A disaster can be the result of natural perils (earthquakes, hurricanes, wildfires); manmade perils (fire, terrorism, workplace violence); and technological perils (cyber breaches, software corruption, system failures).
We recommend that each small business have at least a disaster plan for the three most likely disasters and then a general plan than can be adapted to multiple incidents. For instance a restaurant in Missouri most likely would need a plan specific to tornadoes, flooding, and power outages. Key characteristics of good small business disaster plans are:
1. Anyone Can Do It- some disaster plans point to key personnel which is great. However, what happens if that person is incapacitated? Your plans should be able to be implemented by whoever is available. For instance, access to keys and passwords should not be key components of carrying out your plan because if the person who has keys and password is incapacitated, you won’t be able to carry out the plan.
2. Backup the Backup- the key components of a plan should outline the “perfect scenario” but should always include and think out alternatives if the perfect scenario is not an alternative. For instance, if the plan in the case of an armed robbery is to hide and lock in the inventory room until police come there should be an alternative to this should the robbers breach that room before everyone is able to enter it. It is good to have a statement of your ultimate risk priority in each plan. So in the case of a robbery your priorities would be safety of staff and safety of guests.
3. Disseminate & Practice- although it can seem repetitive and a little pessimistic, these plans should be disseminated in some form multiple times during the year. The reality is that, even if employees call themselves ignoring it, you want this information to be readily available to them during the disaster so that they can access it during the stressful times.
For specific help creating a disaster plan, check out the following DISASTER PLANNING GUIDE.