The Small Business Emergency Readiness Checklist
When emergencies strike, it pays to be prepared. That’s why we’ve gathered a list of tips to help your business stay ready for the unexpected. While they aren’t a cure-all for every crisis, taking these steps could make all the difference when it comes to the survival of your company.
Start Preparing Your Small Business
Before you get started with doomsday prepping your business, it’s a good idea to set aside time to brace yourself for an emergency. As the business owner, you’ll be better suited to lead your team during times of crisis if you take the following precautions:
- Identify the emergency scenarios that are most likely to impact your business.
- Create a plan for every type of crisis — from recessions to natural disasters.
- Save these communications templates so you can keep customers informed in any situation.
- Talk with local emergency services to determine their response time to your workplace.
- Create a list of the most reliable vendors you can depend on in an emergency.
- Make sure you have up-to-date contact information on file for all your employees.
- Have a plan set in place for adjusting your marketing efforts during an urgent scenario.
- Determine whether you’ll need to secure a back-up location to stay in business.
- If possible, set up a work from home policy that you can implement in an emergency.
- Form a basic strategy for continuing your services in the event of a crisis.
Gather Necessary Supplies
National emergencies can cause a temporary shortage of supplies, which can leave you without the basic necessities your business requires. In order to ensure that you have what you need to operate safely, it’s a good idea to do these things ahead of time:
- Keep back-up equipment like computer monitors and laptops in case of any damage.
- Consider utilizing cloud storage for your files so you can access them remotely.
- Have enough essential office supplies in storage to last at least two to three weeks.
- Maintain emergency communication devices such as radios and satellite phones.
- Ensure that you have a sufficient amount of first aid kits available at your workplace.
- Stock up on emergency items like extra batteries, matches and flashlights.
- Store personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks and gloves somewhere safe.
- Avoid hoarding supplies that aren’t necessary to your day-to-day operations.
- Get a basic toolkit to help turn off utilities as needed during an emergency.
- Keep a three-day supply of non-perishable food in case of shelter-in-place orders.
- Consider purchasing a back-up generator that can help in the case of power failure.
Secure Your Data
Next on the list: your precious data. Taking the time to properly back up information can make it much easier for your business to recover from emergencies quickly. Here are some practical ways you can disaster-proof your business data:
- Take inventory of all of the data that is essential to operating your business.
- Plug in your hard drives using surge protectors to prevent them from being wiped out.
- Always keep at least one other copy of important data, ideally in a different format.
- Make sure that any data stored on computers is regularly backed up and recoverable.
- Prioritize critical business data and avoid storing every last bit of information.
- Transfer data stored on older media like CDs to a more reliable data format.
- Back up your most valuable information through a reputable cloud service.
- Convert paper copies of data into digital files like PDFs or spreadsheets for safekeeping.
- Ensure that the way you back up data is secure and compliant with industry regulations.
- Encrypt your data before storing it to prevent it from getting into the wrong hands.
Protect Your Finances
According to FEMA, about 40 to 60 percent of small businesses never reopen following costly disasters like server failures and fires. To keep your business from failing due to the sheer cost of recovering from an emergency, here are some preventative measures you can take:
- Keep a list of all your accounts, and any necessary account information, someplace safe.
- Set up an emergency savings account to help cover any unexpected business expenses.
- Secure a back-up accounting and payroll system to track finances in an emergency.
- Be prepared to eliminate any nonessential expenses from your budget as needed.
- Avoid common business fraud schemes that may arise during a national emergency.
- Check insurance policies to ensure that you have enough coverage for emergencies.
- Properly document all company property to avoid being denied in an insurance claim.
- Be aware of any emergency relief options that are offered in your area.
- Reach out to creditors if you believe you’ll face difficulties making payments.
- Take steps to recession-proof your finances like securing new revenue streams.
Train Your Team
Once you’ve braced your business for emergencies, it’s critical to ensure that your employees are ready too. Here’s how you can avoid the chaos and confusion that often ensues in the wake of a crisis:
- Educate all of your employees on each aspect of your emergency preparedness plans.
- Practice your emergency preparedness plans routinely to keep everyone ready.
- Develop methods to evaluate your preparedness plans so you can keep improving.
- Ensure that all employees understand your warning and communication procedures.
- Consider forming and training a committee to help carry out response plans.
- Clearly specify who will lead emergency response plans in your absence.
- Show your employees how to locate and use common emergency equipment.
- Make sure your employees know all of the evacuation routes and exits in your building.
- Encourage your staff to enroll in CPR, first aid and regular disaster training.
- Show your team how to remotely access emails, voicemails and private networks.
Preparing for an emergency may seem like a lot of work at first, but even following just a few of these suggestions could speed up the road to recovery for your business. The key is to be proactive — rather than wait for a crisis to spring you into action.