A natural disaster such as a hurricane, flood or earthquake can have a monumental effect on the life of a business. Statistics reveal that even a time as short as 48 hours of inability to operate can put a company out of business. This checklist can facilitate the discussion by business owners and managers in planning for continuity and disaster recovery.
A checklist to help small businesses prepare for both large and small incidents:
1) Develop a business continuity / disaster recovery plan
- Establish a disaster-recovery team of employees who know your business best, and assign responsibilities for specific tasks.
- Identify your risks (kinds of disasters you're most likely to experience).
- Prioritize critical business functions and how quickly these must be recovered.
- Establish a disaster recovery location where employees may work off-site and access critical back-up systems, records and supplies.
- Obtain temporary housing for key employees, their families and pets.
- Update and test your plan at least annually.
2) Alternative operational locations
Determine which alternatives are available. For example:
- A satellite or branch office of your business.
- The office of a business partner or even an employee.
- Home or hotel.
3) Backup site
Equip your backup operations site with critical equipment, data files and supplies:
- Power generators.
- Computers and software.
- Critical computer data files (payroll, accounts payable and receivable, customer orders, and inventory).
- Equipment and spare parts.
- Vehicles, boats and spare parts.
- Digital cameras.
- Common supplies.
- Supplies unique to your business (order forms, contracts, etc.).
- Basic first aid/sanitary supplies, potable water and food.
4) Safeguard your property
Review your property insurance coverage to insure your contents are properly valued. . Is your property prepared to survive a hurricane or other disaster:
- Your building?
- Your equipment?
- Your computer systems?
- Your company vehicles?
- Your company records?
- Other company assets?
5) Contact information
Do you have current and multiple contact information (e.g., home and cell phone numbers, personal e-mail addresses) for:
- Key customers?
- Important vendors, suppliers, business partners?
- Insurance companies?
- Is contact information accessible electronically for fast access by all employees?
Do you have access to multiple and reliable methods of communicating with your employees:
- Emergency toll-free hotline?
- Cell phones?
- Satellite phones?
- Two-way radios?
7) Employee preparation
Make sure your employees know:
- Company emergency plan.
- Where they should relocate to work.
- How to use and have access to reliable methods of communication, such as satellite/cell phones, e-mail, voice mail, Internet, text messages, BlackBerry(TM), PDAs.
- How they will be notified to return to work.
- Benefits of direct deposit of payroll and subscribe to direct deposit.
- Emergency company housing options available for them and their family.
8) Customer preparation
Make sure your key customers know:
- Your emergency contact information for sales and service support (publish on your website).
- Your backup business or store locations (publish on your website).
- What to expect from your company in the event of a prolonged disaster displacement.
- Alternate methods for placing orders.
- Alternate methods for sending invoice payments in the event of mail disruption.
9) Evacuation order
When a mandatory evacuation is issued be prepared to grab and leave with critical office records and equipment:
- Company business continuity / disaster recovery plan and checklist.
- Insurance policies and company contracts.
- Company checks, plus a list of all bank accounts, credit cards, ATM cards.
- Employee payroll and contact information.
- Desktop/laptop computers.
- Customer records, including orders in progress.
- Photographs/digital images of your business property.
- Post disaster contact information inside your business to alert emergency workers how to reach you.
- Secure your building and property.
10) Cash management
be prepared to meet emergency cash-flow needs:
- Take your checkbook and credit cards in the event of an evacuation.
- Keep enough cash on hand to handle immediate needs.
- Use Internet banking services to monitor account activity, manage cash flow, initiate wires, pay bills.
- Issue corporate cards to essential personnel to cover emergency business expenses.
- Reduce dependency on paper checks and postal service to send and receive payments (consider using electronic payment and remote deposit banking services).
11) Post-disaster recovery procedures
- Consider how your post-disaster business may differ from today.
- Plan whom you will want to contact and when.
- Assign specific tasks to responsible employees.
- Track progress and effectiveness.
- Document lessons learned and best practices.