WEB EXCLUSIVE: Protect Your Business Before Disasters—Like Sandy—Strike

This web exclusive comes from Al Polito, copywriter and editor at Graphic Products, Inc. in Beaverton, OR.

One thing all disasters have in common is that there is little or no lead time to prepare. With storm systems like Sandy, there may be time to evacuate, but not much more time than that. The time to be prepared is now, so that when the time comes, you are good to go at a moment’s notice.

Photo: Heidi Schwartz

As people, hospitals, educational institutions, and businesses in New Jersey, New York, and other storm-ravaged regions struggle to regain normalcy, we are sternly reminded: every business needs an emergency plan and a business continuity plan; many need an IT disaster recovery plan as well.

Emergency plan

The emergency plan focuses on the immediate needs of a facility when disaster strikes. Your emergency plan should be known by all employees. Since every facility is different, there’s not a one-size-fits-all plan. To get you started, here are some questions to ask:

  • Emergency egress: Are exits and evacuation routes clear at all times? Are routes marked with clear wayfinding signage that is visible without light or power? (In the aftermath of 9/11, New York City and other municipalities made phosphorescent markings mandatory in emergency stairwells and exit doors of commercial high-rise buildings 75 feet or taller.) Do you have regular evacuation drills, and are you prepared to evacuate people with disabilities? Are any employees designated to check bathrooms and make sure all other rooms are empty? For mid-size and larger facilities, is a roll-call procedure in place to make sure all employees are accounted for?
  • Supplies: What will you do if your employees and students (or customers) can’t go home? Do you have robust first aid and emergency supplies on hand? Are food, water and blankets available? What about radios, tools and other disaster supplies, such as crowbars and shovels?
  • Facility: Are fire extinguishers maintained and readily accessible? Is your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system secure and capable of filtering potential contaminants? Is it easy to shut off? Is the gas shutoff readily accessible? Do you have a backup generator and enough safely stored fuel for it to be useful? Are pipes and valves prominently marked? Are all hazardous materials properly stored and labeled with NFPA hazard diamond and/or HazCom 2012 labels?

Business continuity plan

When a disaster takes out an entire city or region, many employers go out of business. In fact, up to 40% of businesses affected by a disaster never reopen according to the Insurance Information Institute, and 62% of businesses lack an emergency plan, according to an Ad Council survey. Planning for contingencies can help keep your business afloat. Here are some bases to cover:

  • Insurance: How well are you covered? It’s wise to get more coverage than you think you need; many buildings near coastal areas do not carry flood insurance because they are not adjacent to a river. Storms and tsunamis have proven that approach to be ineffective.
  • Employees: Which employees will be most necessary for putting the “bare bones” of your business back together, and do you have a plan for getting them back to work even if communication is disrupted? Are they set up for telecommuting?
  • Supply chain: Do you have alternate suppliers and are you set up to do business with them at a moment’s notice?
  • Business model: Can your business adapt rapidly to offer something of value in the aftermath of a catastrophe? How quickly can you adopt the new business model? Do you have access to credit and/or cash? Do you have a backup point-of-sale system that can operate without the power grid?
  • Inventory: How is your inventory secured and stored? If flooded, burned, or shaken today, how much of your inventory would be destroyed?
  • Facility: Can you operate out of a different facility in case of emergency? Do you have generators or a way to operate on limited electricity? Do you have any backup machinery necessary to do enough work to stay in business?
  • Data: Is your electronic data and are your vital records (paper and electronic) safe from flood, fire, and other disruptions?

IT disaster recovery plan

For technology driven companies, a critical aspect of the business continuity plan is the IT disaster recovery plan. Electronic equipment can be affected by power loss, power surges, and exposure to the elements. A basic IT disaster recovery plan takes into account the following:

  • Data recovery and restoration: Is your data backed up on a daily basis and duplicated in a data center somewhere far away from local conditions?
  • Hardware and software: Do you have a full inventory and access to enough equipment to run the business?
  • Connectivity: How will your connectivity channels be affected by disaster?
  • Computer room: Does your computer room feature climate control and both conditioned and backup power supply?

FEMA’s website, www.Ready.gov, has comprehensive information on preparing your business and your family for disaster. We recommend you visit the FEMA site for more thorough preparation measures as well as NFPA’s Standard on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs.

Graphic Products manufactures and distributes industrial sign and labeling systems and supplies compliant with OSHA, ANSI, GHS and NFPA, and also offers PPE and other materials used for industrial safety and productivity.

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