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The Ultimate Checklist to Create an Emergency Action Plan for Your Business

disaster recovery plan

According to FEMA, 40 to 60 percent of businesses never reopen their doors following a disaster, often due to the lack of emergency preparedness. It’s important that businesses of all sizes take emergency and business continuity preparation seriously. 

You can follow these steps to create an emergency preparedness and small business continuity plan.

Consider the Risks

Before you can develop a disaster recovery plan for your business, you need to understand the risks that your business faces. Take some time to understand your business’s risks by:

  1. Assessing your location to gain a better understanding of which natural disasters are most likely to affect your business.
  2. Auditing your business systems and processes. Identify which systems are most important to your operations and must be protected and recovered first.
  3. Creating a checklist of major risks to your critical systems and how you plan to address them after a disaster. Under high stress and confusion, the checklist will help you to keep your priorities straight.

Prepare Your Workplace

Once you understand the risks that your business faces, you can follow these steps to prepare your workplace:

  1. Create an emergency communication plan. FEMA offers a useful template to help you get started.  These plans are designed for employees and other stakeholders, including customers, suppliers, and the surrounding community. Keep your contact lists up to date and be sure to provide alternate contacts.
  2. Put together a readiness kit to keep your employees safe for a few days in case they have to shelter in place during a disaster. Your readiness kit should include necessary items like flashlights, first aid supplies, water, and non-perishable food.
  3. Establish a backup cloud storage solution for your company’s important data and digital assets in case the physical sources or your equipment is lost, damaged, or destroyed.
  4. Create a complete disaster recovery plan outline that includes all the items mentioned above as well as plans for a full training and periodic drills for your employees.
  5. Join the Ready Rating program, offered by the American Red Cross, to see where you can improve. Their ReadyGo and ReadyAdvance assessments can help you understand your business’s preparedness level and give you templates as a starting point for creating your emergency action plan.

Cover Your Assets

You should then identify your most important assets and make sure these are protected. You can do this by:  

  1. Getting insurance for your company so you aren’t forced to restart with nothing after a disaster. This includes renters or property insurance, and insurance plans for your equipment and important company assets.
  2. Learning about the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Disaster Assistance Programs and how they can help your business recover. The SBA and their network of professional business advisors primarily provide disaster assistance in the form of direct loans. They also provide technical assistance to businesses recovering from a disaster. 
  3. Informing yourself about unemployment assistance. These can be especially helpful if you live in an area prone to disasters.

Take Action

After taking these steps, you’ll be prepared to take action if your business is faced with an emergency. Should the worst happen, you can take these steps:

  1. Start by assessing the well-being of your team, business partners, and local clients. Make sure that everyone is safe before enacting the steps of your disaster recovery plan for small business and your small business continuity plan.
  2. Survey the damage to your physical premises and document it by taking pictures/videos and recording serial numbers on electronic items before cleaning up. Cleanup can be hazardous, so be sure to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) tips on post-disaster cleanup.
  3. Reach out to your insurance company to start a claim and contact FEMA to apply for financial assistance.
  4. Reach out to other local businesses to see if they need your assistance. This is a great opportunity for the community to come together and help each other recover swiftly from the disaster.
  5. After the emergency is over and you’re back up and running, it’s time to evaluate the impact and scale of what happened. How would you rank the preparedness of your business and employees? Did you recover as quickly as you planned? What would you do differently next time? FEMA’s Damage Assessment Manual is a great resource to help guide your assessment. After your assessment is complete, adjust your plan accordingly.

Most organizations don’t expect a disaster to affect their business, but it could happen to anyone. Do right by your business and everyone who depends on it by creating a small business continuity plan to protect your organization’s employees, stakeholders, and assets.

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