Emergency response team stands in a circle to discuss a plan.
Predicting what emergency will happen and when is impossible. But, you can take risk assessment and preparedness steps that broadly prepare you to handle emergencies and disasters. — Getty Images/BenDC

A new emergency can strike at any moment, so your business needs to be as prepared as possible. The best way to do this is to create an emergency preparedness plan.

[Read more: How to Plan for Financial Uncertainty as a Business]

Assess the risks that threaten your business

To get started, you need to assess the biggest threats to your business and its long-term recovery. Different types of disasters or emergency events can be worse than others.

Analyze the potential fallout from the following situations:

  • An environmental emergency, like a flood.
  • A global event, like the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • A physical problem, like a break-in.
  • A digital emergency, like a cybersecurity breach.

Complete a hazard vulnerability assessment

If your business operates out of a physical location, you should complete a Hazard Vulnerability Assessment (HVA). An HVA outlines any risk affecting the facility and day-to-day business operations. You’ll then rate these risks based on the level of probability and severity.

From there, you can conduct a business impact analysis. This assessment predicts the level of business disruption and can help you create a recovery strategy.

Gather employee emergency contact information

It’s important to have emergency contact information for all of your employees before disaster strikes. Gather and file this information in a single location where you can quickly access it.

That way, if an emergency happens, you’ll know how and where to reach your employees. You can inform them about the crisis and what you’re doing to manage the situation.

There is a type of insurance to cover nearly every risk your business might face, and the right insurance can protect your business from financial ruin.

Establish evacuation procedures

If you manage a brick-and-mortar business, like a restaurant or store, you need to outline your company’s evacuation procedures. Imagine various emergency scenarios and how your employees and customers can exit the building safely.

You should explain these procedures to your employees, and it’s a good idea to post them where customers can see them. If necessary, run a few drills with your employees so they know where to go and what to do.

Inspect nearby fire alarms, emergency lighting, escape ladders and any other emergency equipment.

Prepare emergency kits

You should also prepare at least one emergency kit and have it available for employees and customers. This emergency kit list is not exhaustive, but is a good start for medical and survival items you can include:

  • Gauze and bandages.
  • Painkillers.
  • A flashlight.
  • Batteries.
  • A warm blanket.

This emergency kit could be crucial if you or your employees must wait for emergency services to reach you during a disaster.

Backup important data and files

It’s essential to backup all business data and files. You should store all company data on a secure hard drive offsite. In addition, you can store data in the cloud, which when taking proper cybersecurity measures, can help protect your business against cybersecurity threats.

If you have physical files, make two copies. Store one copy at work and another copy at home. That way, if one location or the other is destroyed, you’ll still have the files you need to get your business back up and running.

[Read more: Guide to Data Management, Protection and Storage]

Collect and store insurance information

Finally, make sure you have the correct insurance for your business. There is a type of insurance to cover nearly every risk your business might face, and the right insurance can protect your business from financial ruin.

For instance, if you own a restaurant, you’ll likely want to purchase commercial property insurance. If you’re an accountant or lawyer, you might need professional liability insurance. A licensed insurance agent can advise you on the best options for your business.

Make sure you store your insurance information in a place that is easy to access. That way, if an emergency strikes, you won’t be scrambling to locate this information.

[Read more: Ransomware: What Small Businesses Need to Know]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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