While I tend to be an optimist and believe there’s always a positive side to everything that happens, the horrendous scenes from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina have made even an optimist like myself feel humbled and vulnerable. While in the Midwest we have no risk of the ravages of hurricanes, we’re at risk for other acts of nature and man. There are day-to-day unthinkable things that could happen to change our businesses and our lives.
How quickly could your company get back to business after a terrorist attack, tornado, fire, or flood? I want to take this opportunity to encourage businesses of all sizes to make sure you have an emergency plan. Emergency plans aren’t just for large companies with ample resources. It’s more important for small companies to be prepared in case of an emergency since they account for 99 percent of all companies with employees, employ 50 percent of all private sector workers, and provide nearly 45 percent of the nation’s payroll.
To learn more about how to create and implement an emergency plan, go to www.ready.gov. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has done a good job of using our tax dollars to create a user-friendly web site for businesses to create customized emergency plans. It provides business owners and managers with practical steps and easy-to-use templates to help plan for their company’s future. Their recommendations reflect the Emergency Preparedness and Business Continuity Standard (NFPA 1600) developed by the National Fire Protection Association and endorsed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Department of Homeland Security. While the information provided in the web site is a good start for small to medium-size businesses, companies that already have plans in place can continue to help create a more robust, sustainable community by mentoring businesses in their own supply chain and others needing advice. The site is divided into three sections:
• Plan to Stay in Business. Business continuity planning means accounting for both man-made and natural disasters.
• Talk to Your People. Involve employees and co-workers at all levels in emergency planning. Prepare a crisis communication plan with details, practice the plan, and promote preparedness among your employees and co-workers for their own families.
• Protect Your Investment. Make sure your insurance coverage is current and adequate. Conduct a room-by-room walk-through to determine what equipment needs to be secured— including the physical building. Protect your data and IT systems. And as we found with the recent hurricane disaster, be prepared for power and phone outages.
We know emergency planning works; we’ve seen it work in our own community. The question is, do you have your own emergency plan? If not, now is the time to put it on the priority list. If you have a plan, take the time to mentor another organization to put theirs in place. Thinking about the unthinkable seems a little less daunting when you have a plan. IBI