To minimize the impact of disasters on employees, property, and operations, businesses must make the right preparations. These include: creating a disaster plan, identifying priorities, training employees on emergency preparedness, and reviewing the business’ insurance coverage. Here are resources to help prepare for disasters and organize your response.
Top 10 Preparedness Tips
- Organize a staff team to create your plan.
- Gather critical documents and information needed for decision making.
- Identify and prioritize the company’s most important operations and processes.
- Identify hazards and potential disruptions to your operations.
- Keep it simple: design a plan that is easy to understand and implement. .
- Create a communications strategy and plan to use it post emergency. Maintain an up-to-date emergency contact list for employees, vendors, suppliers, and other key stakeholders.
- Recruit and train employee volunteers that can effectively manage the response.
- Back up and store vital records and data at an off-site location.
- Take action to mitigate the potential impact of a disaster on equipment, buildings, facilities, inventory, and storage. Consider your insurance options and whether to purchase a generator.
- Exercise, test, and update your plan at least annually.
- The 10 IT Disaster Planning Essentials For A Small Business Network – Covers key topics such as backing-up data.
- Top 20 Preparedness Tips for Businesses (DRB Toolkit) – Covers what you need to do before, during and after with tips on how to protect everything from your employees to the company brand.
- Are You Prepared? How to Make a Disaster Recovery Plan For Your Business – A 10-step guide to creating a disaster recovery plan.
- 7 Steps You Need to Take Before Disaster Strikes (AmEx) – Provides simple, straight-forward steps derived from the response to Hurricane Sandy and other disasters.
- 10 Essentials for the Small Business Disaster Recovery Tool Kit (Symantec) – Helpful toolkit for preparing your business.
- Business Interruption Preparedness/Recovery – Five steps to ensuring business continuity during a disruption.
- Advance Preparation for Disaster is a Must for Every Small Business (Symantec) - Tips for creating an emergency preparedness plan for your computers and data.
- 5 Tips to Ensure Your Business Survives Disaster – Guide to ensuring that a business survives the recovery process.
- Business Disaster Preparedness Plan Development: Lessons from Sandy – Five tips suggested by the Houston Chronicle about developing an effective disaster preparedness plan.
- Ten Tips for Successful IT Disaster Recovery Planning – Tips and case studies for businesses responding to a disaster situation.
- Business Disaster Preparedness Plan Development: Lessons from Sandy – Fundamental steps for developing an effective disaster preparedness plan.
- How Small Businesses Should Plan for Disasters – Case studies on disaster response from Hurricane Sandy.
- 11 Steps to Comprehensive Business Planning and Preparedness – Comprehensive guide to creating a disaster preparedness plan with step-by-step assistance (Ignore WA specific information).
“Small businesses are at particular risk as they often lack the resources to survive a catastrophic event. And when small businesses are unable to rebuild, the entire community continues to suffer. Jobs are lost, neighborhoods decline, and individuals and families endure further hardships.”
~United Way, Larimer County (CO) after 2013 floods
- Emergency Planning for Small Business – Uses real business stories to discuss business emergency planning.
- Disaster Recovery and Continuity Guide – Geared to businesses that are struck by disaster and don’t have a prepared plan. Provides step-by-step assistance to get back on track.
- 7 Steps to an Earthquake Resilient Business – Focused on earthquake recovery, this booklet explains what businesses can do before, during, and after disaster.
- Preparedness Planning for Your Business (FEMA) – Website and tools for assessing, planning, responding, and improving future readiness.
- Hurricane Preparedness Planning For Businesses – Guide for businesses vulnerable to hurricanes with tips for before, during, and after.
- Prepare Your Business for the Unexpected – A collection of planning forms to help organize your basic preparedness planning information.
- American Red Cross Ready Rating Assessment – A program that provides a 123-question assessment to help businesses identify gaps and strengths and where they should focus attention.
- Emergency Preparedness Checklist for Small Businesses (Red Cross) – 3-step preparedness checklist.
- Five Steps Toward Disaster Preparedness – 5-step preparedness checklist.
- IOWA Business Emergency Preparedness Plan – Checklist with examples of best practices for creating a preparedness plan.
- Small Business Emergency Preparedness Checklist (BBB) - Simple checklist to help businesses begin to create a disaster preparedness plan.
- Disaster-Recovery Checklist – A 5-step guide to creating a disaster recovery plan.
- Preparing for Disaster (Farmers Insurance) – Preparedness information with additional tips on insurance review.
- Business Disaster Planning Checklist – Useful list to help business plan ahead before a disaster.
- Minimizing the Risks to Your Business Using Security Measures and Disaster Planning – Guide to securing business property following a disaster.
- Preparing Your Small Business for a Disaster – Checklist covering key preparedness topics (ignore San Francisco specific numbers).
- How Prepared Is Your Business If Disaster Strikes? – Simple checklist of disaster preparedness tips.
- Disaster Prevention Checklist – Checklist to help with preparing for an imminent disaster.
- Disasters Happen. Is your Business Ready?: Guidance for preparing your business to withstand the unexpected (Microsoft) – Business disaster statistics on preparation, technology and business strategy. Includes a readiness quiz and a business worksheet.
- Emergency Action Plan/Checklist – Guide to creating an emergency action plan using multi-hazard checklists.
- Checklist for Businesses: Post-Disaster Transportation and Utility Disruptions – Provides clear before-during-after checklist for expected disruptions from any disaster.
- Prepare for a hurricane’s effect on your business, employees and community (SBA/Agility) – Guide to preparing for a hurricane.
- Tornado Preparedness Checklist (SCORE) – Guide to preparing for a tornado.
- Tornado Preparedness and Response (OSHA) – Planning and employee training guide for tornado preparation.
- Flood Preparedness Checklist (SCORE) – Guide to preparing for a flood.
- Earthquake Preparedness Checklist (SCORE) – Guide to preparing for an earthquake.
- Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety – Step-by-step guide to earthquake preparation.
Business Continuity Planning (BCP)
- Planning for Business Continuity after a Disaster (IRS) – Short video giving four key areas for businesses to focus on when planning.
- Preparing for Disaster – Asks questions and provides tips to get started in business continuity planning.
- DRB Toolkit© (Disaster Resistant Business Toolkit) – Step-by-step, fully customizable planning tool guides to help all types of businesses build a disaster plan, train employees, run exercises, and prepare operations. Provides tools, templates, and videos for beginners and experienced planners alike. Use discount code: USChamber
- 7 Ways to Protect Your Business From Disaster – Short tips on how to prepare your business.
- Planning and Responding to Workplace Emergencies (OSHA) – Factsheet of requirements and tips for emergency response and protecting employees.
- Preparing Your Business for the Unthinkable (Red Cross) – Short guide with helpful suggestions to get started.
- Tools and Resources for Business Disaster Recovery Planning A detailed guide covering many aspects of disaster recovery planning with helpful tables and tools. (Ignore Nebraska specific numbers)
- How Can I Prepare My Small Business for a Disaster? – Six essential tips for small business disaster preparedness.
- Business Continuity & Disaster Preparedness Plan – A thorough guide to help businesses plan out their disaster response. (Ignore Alaska specific numbers)
- 2011 Crisis Preparedness Study – Slideshow for businesses about the importance of Business Continuity Planning.
- Ready Georgia: Is Your Business Ready? –Fill-in-the-blanks document for creating a business continuity plan.
- Disaster Resource Guide for Individuals and Businesses – Guide to understanding IRS resources available after a disaster. Includes forms and phone numbers.
- Preparing for Disasters (IRS) – Short video about how to protect tax and banking information following a disaster.
- Preparing for a Disaster (Taxpayers and Businesses) – Tips for safeguarding documents and tracking valuables after a disaster. Includes a Loss Workbook tool from the IRS.
- Business Partners Disaster Preparedness and Community Guide – Helpful guide for businesses and community members. (Ignore Florida specific numbers)
- How to Prepare an Emergency Response Plan for Your Small Business – Basic plan guidance to address emergency response such as evacuation, first aid, and employee support.
- Business Continuity Plan – United Way’s business continuity plan: a good reference for businesses looking to create their own.
- Prepare Your Business for the Unexpected – A collection of planning forms to help organize your basic preparedness planning information.
- Being Prepared: Is Your Business Ready for a Disaster? – Slideshow of information about disaster recovery; includes information on government assistance, statistics about business recovery, and assistance for small businesses.
71% of small businesses say they are “very dependent” on 1 or 2 key people, but only 22% have “Key Person Insurance” ~National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)
Insurance is not a tax; it is a risk management tool critical for all businesses. It can reduce the financial impact of accidents, fires, and other unplanned disruptions. Insurance protects businesses from events out of their control and improves chances for survival. Here are some tips to keep your business running smoothly:
- Review your coverage and design an insurance program that fits your business and risks. Bring in an insurance professional to explain different types of available coverage. Keep in mind that some policies may not need to cover every aspect of the business but simply the most critical elements that you need to remain operational. Find the right balance.
- When disaster strikes, file a claim as soon as possible. To do so, plan ahead for what items you will be required to provide so you do not miss an important step in the process. Take pre-disaster photos of your business and equipment. After an event occurs, document damage with photos or videos.
Review Your Coverage
- The Smart Approach to Protecting Your Business (SBA & The Hartford) – Covers managing your risk and creating a risk management program; includes 7 areas of risk and checklists for addressing each one.
- What Types of Insurance Should a Small Business Consider? – Discusses everything you need to know how to pick the right coverage for your business.
- 13 Types of Insurance a Small Business Owner Should Have – Overview of available insurance policies for businesses.
- Types of Business Insurance (SBA) – The 5 basic types of insurance that businesses need to consider.
- Insurance Checklist for Disaster Planning – Simple checklist for utilizing insurance following a disaster.
- Consumer's Guide to Insurance for Small Business Owners – Helpful information for small businesses looking to purchase insurance. (Ignore Wisconsin specific information)
- Small Business Owners’ Insurance – Helpful information for small businesses looking to purchase insurance. (Ignore Florida specific information)
- Oregon Small Business Guide to Insurance and Worksite Safety – Helpful information for small businesses looking to purchase insurance. (Ignore Oregon specific information)
- Business Income Protection - A Must for Small Businesses – Articles to assist small businesses with determining their most ideal insurance coverage.
- Review and Update Your Business Insurance in Case Disaster Strikes – List of questions in 6 categories to help businesses determine what coverage they need to prepare for disasters.
- Insurance is Financial Risk Mitigation (FEMA) - Information on National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP); includes resources such as a link to an insurance coverage review form.
- Earthquake Basics Insurance – Details insurance options available for businesses facing the threat of an earthquake.
- How to Develop a Small Business Disaster Recovery Plan – Overview of helpful insurance plans for small businesses.
Filing a Claim
- When Disaster Strikes: Navigating the Claims Process – Tips on how to file an insurance claim.
- Let Us Help Guide You Through Your Business Insurance Claims – Checklist to assist with filing a claim.
- After A Loss: Filing Your Business Insurance Claim – List of steps to take after filing an insurance claim.
- Disaster Resource Guide for Small Businesses – Step-by-step guide to filing a claim. (Ignore Missouri specific information)
- Steps for Filing a Business Insurance Claim – Five tips on filing a claim.
- Important Insurance Lessons from Superstorm Sandy – Helpful tips on working with insurance companies during the claims process.
- How to File a Business Insurance Claim – Concise information about how to file a claim.
Communicating With Employees, Suppliers, and Customers
During disasters, communication is one of the most needed activities to inform employees and suppliers, answer customer questions, reduce rumors, and provide expectations to the public. It is also one of the first systems to break or experience challenges.
To plan for potential business interruptions and to create a crisis communication strategy as part of your larger Business Continuity Plan. Here are some tips:
- Keep your Emergency Contact List updated with every possible mode to reach each person (phone: work, home, cell, significant other’s cell; email: work, personal, alternate; family contact; evacuation plan and contact; social media: Facebook, Twitter; etc.)
- Consider an alert mechanism that can keep your employees, customers, vendors, suppliers, and stakeholders informed and regularly updated in multiple ways (e.g. email, text messages). Test regularly.
- Use existing social media platforms to communicate online (e.g. Facebook, Twitter).
- Have procedures to work with the media following a crisis.
- Identify a spokesperson to be the voice of your company in talking with the media.
- Developing messaging and talking points specific to their intended audience (e.g. employees, vendors, community members).
- Communicate accurately and often with customers to keep them informed of any delays in delivery, alternatives, expectations, and any compensation.
- Monitor outside communications to determine what is working well and areas to improve your communication strategy.
- Update the communications strategy often. Train employees and provide new hires with the communications strategy.
Crisis Communication Planning
- Is Your Company Prepared to Respond after a Disaster? (SBA) - Tips to get your company’s crisis communications plan started.
- Crisis Communications – (SBA/Agility) Checklist for developing a crisis communications plan with recommendations for during and after an emergency.
- Disaster Recovery: Developing the Perfect Communications Plan for Your Business – Guide to completing the Crisis Communications checklist.
- Communicating a Crisis: Creating a Disaster Response Marketing Communications Plan – Helpful tips for disaster response marketing and communications.
- Sample Disaster Recovery Emails to Customers – Examples of ways to notify customers of a disaster and your recovery process.
- Crisis Communications Plan (FEMA) – Background information about Crisis Communications Plans and their importance.
- Developing an Emergency Communications Plan: A Template for Business Continuity Planners –List of eight essential topics that a crisis communications plan must cover. http://enewsletters.constructionexec.com/riskmanagement/2013/08/be-prepared-to-respond-after-a-disaster/ – Eight specific tips with a link to the SBA/Agility checklist.
- With Good Planning, Web and Mobile Technologies Can Help Find and Inform Employees in the Event of a Disaster – Case study of one multinational company’s response to the London bombings.
- Crisis Communications and Disaster Response – Tips on communicating with employees and stakeholders post-Disaster.
- Small Business Crisis Communications Plan – Great guide with six key elements to a crisis communication plan.
- Crisis Communications Plan – United Way’s crisis communication plan; a helpful example for business looking to create their plan.
- 2011 Crisis Preparedness Study - Helpful statistics about Crisis Preparedness; includes recent case studies.
- Reputation Management –Slideshow of the basics for pre-planning crisis communication and how to address events strategically.
- Disaster Communication for Small Business – Covers why communicating with employees and clients is important. Gives tips on mass notifications and potential issues to plan for in advance.
- Preparing Your Organization For a Crisis – Tips on preparing for a major disaster; includes resources to help victims and to ensure business recovery.
Integrating social media into Your Communications Plan
- 5 Tips for Integrating Social Media into Your Disaster Plans – Helpful tips for using social media following a disaster.
- 4 Social Media Management Tips For Communication During a Crisis – Good tips using the experience of Entergy Corporation following Hurricane Isaac.
- 8 Tips to Avoid Social Media Disaster – How to plan for and respond to potential damage to your company’s name and brand.
- Avoiding a Social Media Disaster for Your Small Business – Quick tips for responding to events that may impact your company’s name or brand.
- Social Media Disaster Prevention and Response Tips – Case studies of businesses using social media to preserve their name and brand following a disaster.
An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can be useful in handling productivity decline following a disaster.
- Consider how your company can help employees and families access medical care, food, housing, and other essentials.
- Plan to connect employees with resources. Those hit hardest may not have working phones or the ability to call area resources to find new housing, child care, a kennel, a rental car, or other necessary services.
- Plan for the possibility of employees requiring financial assistance through the form of emergency grants or an advance on future wages.
- How to Set-Up an Employee Assistance Program? – Five steps to set up an EAP.
- Employee Assistance & Support (FEMA) – Steps on setting up an EAP and opening a family assistance center.
- Helping your employees through a crisis: Tips to help employees cope with disasters.
- Recovering and Rebuilding After a Disaster: Part 4 – Helping Your Employees Through a Crisis – Helpful article about connecting with employees following a crisis.
- A Manager’s Handbook: Handling Traumatic Events – Chapters six and seven specifically provide information for businesses looking to set up an Employee Assistance Program. Includes tips on minimizing employees’ stress.
- Rebuilding a Community: An Employer’s Guide to Assisting Employees: Comprehensive guide for employee assistance, recovery, federal assistance, and more. Created by a large company following Hurricane Floyd, and implemented again after Hurricane Katrina. Includes tips for addressing employee needs as well as business recovery http://bit.ly/1qPqsrr
- 5 Ways to Help Employees Affected by Disaster – Tips to help employees recover post-disaster.
Compendium of Resources
Depending on the type of hazards your business may face there are a variety of resources to help. These include FEMA, SBA, business continuity publications, local fire departments, Chambers of Commerce, Economic Development organizations, professional organizations and many more. Most have a strong online presence with tools available via the internet.
- FEMA.gov – Presents many kinds of preparedness information and materials.
- Ready Business (FEMA) - Helps companies develop a five-step preparedness program that addresses the impact of many hazards.
- Small Business Toolkit (FEMA) – Tools and resources for small businesses.
- Protect your Property or Business from Disaster (FEMA) – A downloadable list of publications detailing how to minimize property losses caused by various types of natural disasters.
- DisasterAssistance.gov – If you have personal (non-business) losses, register with FEMA here or call FEMA: (800) 621-3362 or TTY (800) 462-7585.
- Disaster Declarations are made by states to keep track of what is happening and provide immediate resources.
- If there is a federal emergency declared, click here to find your nearest Disaster Recovery Center.
- SBA: Disaster Loans Links to articles, factsheets, and forms related to the Disaster Loans program; includes mail-in and online applications.
- Emergency Preparedness (SBA) – Articles on planning and resources.
- Webinars on a variety of topics (SBA/Agility) Covers topics including planning, recovery, and lessons learned.
- Disaster Declarations – Chronological listing of Disaster Declarations made across the United States.
- America’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) – Network of business counselors that can help people start and grow a company. During a disaster SBDC also offers free recovery counseling.
- How to Navigate Stormy Weather - Emergency Preparedness and Response Planning (IBHS) - Business emergency preparedness checklist.
- A Guide to Emergency Preparedness – Emergency preparedness tips for before and after a disaster.
- IRS Videos on Disaster Subjects – Informative videos to help businesses affected by a major disaster.