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Every Business Should Have A Plan. Do You?

America's businesses are the backbone of the nation's economy, so having our businesses ready to survive and recover from disasters is essential to not only helping our economy and the nation recover faster, but to help support employees, customers, the local community, and the country as a whole.

Do you know what your business will do if you are faced with a natural disaster such as a tornado, flood or earthquake? How will you be able to continue running your business if there is a widespread serious illness and 90% of your employees are out? Do you have a back up for all of your records if your paper records, or electronic records are wiped out? How will your employees know what to do if you can't communicate with them the normal way?

FEMA's Fill In Emergency Response Plan

FEMA's Fill In Business Continuity Plan

There are five areas in developing a successful preparedness program:

Program Management

For a preparedness program to be successful, there needs to be leadership, commitment and financial support. Without these, it would be very difficult to build the program and keep it up to date.

  • Develop, organize and administer your program. Create a committee to provide input into the program; include different functional areas of expertise when picking your committee, such as finance, human resources, engineering, legal, information technology etc. You can even include external partners such as law enforcement, fire department, emergency managers; this would also open up lines of communication and develop relationships with these partners which may prove beneficial in emergencies.
  • Identify any regulations that may establish minimum requirements for your preparedness program
  • When developing your objectives for this program, consider including hazard prevention/deterrence, risk mitigation, emergency response, investing in resources and business continuity. Don't forget, objectives should be tangible and measurable.
  • Include the following in your program:
    • Preparedness policy
    • Goals and objectives
    • Program Scope
    • Regulations
    • Priorities
    • Budget
    • Schedule
    • Resources
    • Evaluation
    • Records management

Planning

There are many possible hazards that could affect your business, but it is hard to determine what ones will. This is why you should take an all hazards approach.

  • Conduct a risk assessment. Know what hazards you may face, and assess the risks. Identify potential hazards, assess vulnerabilities and analyze potential impacts.
  • Conduct a business impact analysis (helps you identify critical processes and financial and operational impacts from these disruptions).
  • Examine ways to prevent and reduce risks. This could include a prevention program to help fires be prevented, spills be avoided and maintenance to keep machines from malfunctioning. This also includes creating mitigation strategies, or strategies that can reduce damage from a hazard. For example, you could install an emergency generator for critical equipment, or set up uninterruptible power supplies (UPS).

Implementation

Implementation is a large piece of the preparedness program. This includes all of the following:

  • Resource management (what will you need, and how will you get it)
  • Emergency response (plans to protect life, property and the environment)
  • Crisis communications (how will you communicate with your employees, customers, stakeholders, and the media)
  • Business continuity (how will you continue to operate, how will you recover)
  • Information technology systems (plans to recover electronic data, computer hardware and connectivity to support your critical processes)
  • Employee assistance (create a plan to support employee and family preparedness, and how will you support your employees needs after an emergency)
  • Incident management (who will be in charge or what, when. Define roles and responsibilities)
  • Training (train all employees and stakeholders to do their assigned tasks and follow their defined roles)

Testing

Once you have your program set up and personnel trained, it is time to test and evaluate its effectiveness and to find any gaps in your plans. Personnel will feel more at ease if an emergency happens if they have tested the plans before the emergency strikes. Otherwise they will feel out of their comfort zone, and this is when mistakes and miscommunication can happen, causing potentially damaging results.

  • Test and evaluate your plan on a regular basis with exercises. There are many different exercise types: workshops/seminars, tabletops, functional and full scale.
  • Use your exercise results to evaluate your plan and program

Program Improvement

  • Identify how and when you will review your program. This may include conducting a critique after every incident, after quarterly exercises etc.
  • Revise your plans accordingly based on your exercises and other critiques. Your revisions should address any gaps and deficiencies identified.

FEMA has an excellent Business Continuity Planning Suite you can download for free with wonderful tools and guides. Visit FEMA's website for more Business Preparedness tips and guides.