7 Steps for Effective Business Emergency Preparedness Planning

If you noticed a gaping hole in the roof of your house, what would you do?

A) Wait until there’s a greater than 50% chance of a storm and then call for help
B) Call to have it fixed ASAP

If you value your house and its contents you no doubt answered B. Why? Because if you try to play the odds with the weather, chances are something could go horribly wrong and you’ll end up paying a much steeper price.

You most likely feel the same way about a hole in the roof of a business location. But what about the less tangible risks to your business? What about gaping holes in emergency preparedness or business continuity plans? If you don’t have a plan, you’re not alone. Large numbers of businesses don’t have them. And many businesses that have created plans don’t bother to make sure they stay current.

But when you consider that the costs of a disaster could likely run tens-of-thousands to millions of dollars—putting off emergency preparation and business continuity planning is a gamble that’s not worth taking. Because it simply may not be possible to keep people and assets safe and help your business recover quickly from disasters that are likely to happen in your area without an up-to-date plan.

Creating a Workable Business Emergency Framework
So what does it take to establish an effective emergency preparedness or business continuity framework? The most important thing is management support. If top-tier management doesn’t buy into the need for planning—and champion it—it isn’t going to happen.

Clearly understanding the threats to your business and the potential costs of responding to them is critical to workable emergency planning. So a risk assessment and a corresponding business impact analysis are essential. If buy-in is a challenge for your organization, or you are still on the fence about the need for more careful planning, these assessments are also a great way to create a clear picture of why planning is so important. They will help you understand whether or not you could even recover from a disaster, how long it would take and the potential costs of operations going down. A risk assessment will also help you prioritize your emergency planning, based on the most prevalent threats. The costs and time of a third-party analysis are also small compared to the valuable insights you can get about potential business exposure.

7 Key Steps for Emergency Preparedness
Once you have executive support and clearly understand the threats and potential costs, it’s time to take action. Here are seven key steps for creating an effective emergency preparedness approach:

  1. Build a cross-functional team: Good emergency planning takes the cooperation of people from across the company. Put together a team that makes sense for your organization and clearly define the roles and responsibilities of each member.
  2. Create an action plan: Once you have a team in place and understand what you’re up against, you need to define how your organization will respond to likely disasters.
  3. Train your staff: The plan is only half the battle when it comes to preparing for emergencies. Your staff also needs to clearly understand what to do and be comfortable carrying out its responsibilities. And that takes live practice so that key tasks are ingrained when the lights go out.
  4. Maintain and fine tune: Training exercises will give you an idea of what works and what doesn’t, so you can make necessary adjustments to your plan. Moreover, it’s important to look at your plan as a living document and regularly update it as roles or procedures change.
  5. Don’t forget your supply chain: While your initial emergency planning focus may be on immediate operations, it’s also important to consider what would happen if a key supplier goes down? In our interconnected world, a disaster at a supplier could spell big problems for your operations.
  6. Fine tune again: We can’t stress enough the importance of taking a step back occasionally and seeing what adjustments need to be made to your plan. Have you added a location? Has there been a reorganization? Has a new product introduced a new risk in your supply chain?
  7. Monitor for threats: Finally, make sure you constantly monitor for oncoming threats so you can respond appropriately and quickly whenever possible. Of course, this isn’t possible with all types of disasters, but in many cases you can at least get a few minutes of advance warning. And every minute counts in an emergency.

Emergency planning can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s just a matter of making it a priority and then taking it a step at a time. If you have questions about preparedness best practices, let us know.

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