Before Disaster Strikes, Prepare Your Business with an Emergency Plan

Businesses and HBAs face an ever-changing landscape of challenges and hazards that can have a major impact on their core business functions, stakeholders and finances. Natural disasters, pandemics and outages of critical infrastructure or technology can all cause severe disruptions.

Drafting a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) or emergency business plan can help you assess probable hazards to your business or HBA. A COOP puts measures in place either to mitigate associated risks or coordinate alternate actions during times of crisis to maintain business functions.

To support the business community in the planning process, FEMA has partnered with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Ready.gov to produce the Ready Business Program. This program features several hazard-specific toolkits designed to help business owners and managers organize information and draft business continuity plans.

The Ready Business Program recommends addressing several questions during the planning process:

  • Identify Your Risk. What disasters or highly impactful events are most likely to affect my business? Plan for events that are most likely to happen in your area such as natural disasters, man-made hazards, theft or technology outages. Buildings, storage, vehicles, tools, job-sites, and IT equipment could all be vulnerable to different types of hazards or disasters.
  • Develop a Plan. How do I continue operations and business functions during or after a crisis, while ensuring the safety of employees and other stakeholders? Draft a framework for how your business can continue to run safely in adverse conditions caused by the hazards you have identified. What can be done to ensure financial viability in case of decreased cash-flow? If your equipment is damaged/lost how will you be able to access your records? The U.S. Small Business Administration has a checklist of questions available.
  • Communicate Your Plan. How will I ensure my stakeholders are aware of and understand my plan in case of an emergency or pending event? When will I tell them? Every COOP plan should include a crisis communications section that addresses how employees, subcontractors, vendors or suppliers will be made aware of the plan and how to keep in contact before, during and after the event. Make sure to incorporate a plan for communications redundancies in the event of telephone or internet outages.
  • Take Action. What preparedness actions, processes or physical improvements need to be put into place prior to the disaster in order to mitigate against the risks identified? Begin training in any processes that were outlined in the plan or make changes that would be critical to addressing your business’s primary risks. Some examples of these changes could be building safety improvements, technology backups, new vendors or procuring safety items.
This post is part of a weekly series in September focused on National Preparedness Month. For more information on emergency preparedness and response visit nahb.org.