Brooks Nelson


March 22, 2019


Disasters are dangerous for business. We know how much your employees, customers, and community mean to you as a small business, so we’re here to assure you that you can do something about the danger disaster poses to your business.

First, let’s agree on one thing. Hiding from the possibility that a disaster will affect your business is the worst approach to take. Doing nothing leaves you with unnecessary vulnerability.

It’s not comfortable to think it could happen to you. But, small businesses in a disaster lose, on average, $3,000 in revenue per day. Increase that to $23,000 per day for medium-sized businesses.

Most people think of disasters only when stories of hurricanes, tornadoes, or wildfires are dominating the news networks. Did you know that a power outage is one of the most common ways small businesses unexpectedly lose revenue?

Power outages can be caused by any number of factors, many of which are outside of your control. For example, a construction project may accidentally hit an underground cable. A car accident might take down a transmitter pole. Ice may cause heavy tree limbs to snap power lines and, sometimes, municipal grids simply become overloaded.

Think about a disaster as anything that disrupts normal operations with employees, customers, and your supply chain.

The U.S. boasts more than 30 million small businesses, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. The Federal Emergency Management Agency states that after a disaster, whether large-scale or small-scale, natural or manmade, 43% of small businesses in disaster won’t re-open. The lucky ones that do face a failure rate of 25% within two years due to complications from the disaster.

That affects a lot of employees and customers! Yet, less than 17% of small businesses have an effective disaster continuity plan.

Ready to do something that could help your business survive and even thrive? Here, we’ll share six realistic ways you can get started on a disaster continuity plan. For a more complete roadmap of 20 ways you can protect your operations, people, data, buildings, equipment, and brand from disaster, download our Resilience in a Box checklist.

1. Form a Planning Team

No one person knows everything about your business, so it’s crucial to create a team of people who will make sure you are addressing all of your critical elements. The big picture and the critical details matter equally in the planning process. Ensure the team is granted time to realistically create forward momentum on a disaster plan.

2. Gather Critical Information

Organize the key documents that help you make decisions, such as legal documents, insurance policies, and lease agreements. Store this critical info in more than one format, for example, hard copies in a file folder and electronic versions in the cloud.

3. Prioritize Your Critical Operations

This exercise will help you prioritize which pieces of your business must be brought back most urgently to minimize loss. Think only about how things work under normal, everyday conditions. Put the critical tasks in order of what has to happen first, second, and so on. Remember to think about how reliant one aspect could be on another.

4. Identify Your Hazards

Every business is vulnerable to something. The most likely disasters to hit a business are a power outage and a fire. Identifying your hazards while you still have the luxury of the lights being on and the computers running allows you to think through how vulnerabilities could disrupt or delay your business operations. Look beyond your four walls and consider the full scope of your business.

5. Write a Simple Plan

You can create your own plan or use a resource such as the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Resilience in a Box tools. Remember, a complicated plan is not a realistic plan. Create checklists in your plan for tracking what’s been done and what’s next. Checklists help reduce stress -- and disasters are stressful.

6. Create a “Go” Bag

Have a hard copy of your disaster plan in a grab-and-go case, along with any relevant documents you may need during and after a disaster -- such as floor plans, lease agreements, insurance policies, and employee contact lists.

If this was helpful, be sure to check out our other simple starters in our Resilience in a Box portal.

About the authors

Brooks Nelson