Disaster Recovery Tips for the Unprepared: 5 Steps

Flooding. Storm damage. A fire. Even detailed planners don’t always have a strategy for responding to a natural or manmade disaster.

But if you’ve just experienced any type of business disaster, you need to restore normal operations as fast as possible. So after calling 911 or other emergency response services, what should you do? Here are five disaster preparedness tips for helping to speed your recovery:

1) Make sure Employees and Customers are Safe

After any event that puts peoples’ lives in danger, your number one priority should be making sure that everyone in and around your facilities is safe. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to evacuate people to a nearby location or move them to the safest part of your structure or property for shelter.

At the same time, be sure to get an accurate headcount of employees and visitors so you can try to account for everyone that was onsite when the event happened and alert emergency personnel about people who may be missing.

2) Contact Your Insurance Carrier or Broker

Quickly communicating your loss to your insurance company is essential to getting your claim paid properly. If you delay filing, your settlement could be reduced or even denied. For example, when insurance companies suspect the information your business has provided is incomplete or slow to arrive, they usually send Reservation of Rights letters explaining that part or all of a claim may be denied due to a potentially compromised investigation.

To avoid potential questions about your claim, inform your insurance agency about the loss as soon as possible—with as much detail as possible, including (but not limited to):

  • What was damaged, including the cause or suspected cause
  • The day and time it occurred
  • Notification about your plans to secure the area

The third point above about securing the area relates to avoiding charges for preventable additional losses that could occur as a result of a subsequent event. For example, if you experience water leaks from a heavy rainstorm five days after a windstorm rips off part of your roof, the insurance company would likely only cover the wind damage costs. So it’s not only important to be aware of your additional ongoing risks, but also to take quick action. Fortunately, the next step should put you on the right path.

(You can read more about streamlining insurance claims here.)

3) Contact an Emergency Response Vendor

The longer your business is compromised, the less likely it will be able to bounce back from the disaster. That’s why it’s so important to find a reputable emergency response vendor with a proven ability to help businesses like yours safely and rapidly recover from disasters. If you are in a time crunch, focus on the following three criteria:

  1. Safety record—a sound safety record says a lot about a provider’s culture as well as their efficiency and efficacy. 
  2. Experience level—the more types of situations a contractor has seen, the better they will likely be at helping you quickly and effectively navigate your situation. 
  3. Reliable references—even in urgent situations, don’t skip calling references. The vendor will be a key part of your team for a very crucial time period, so it’s important to know they will have your back. 

4) Alert Your Supply Chain Partners and Customers

Once the restoration process is rolling, to protect your reputation and brand you need to make sure your supply chain partners and customers are up to speed about what’s happening.

Supply chain partners: Let your partners know that you have experienced a disaster and give them as much of a heads up as you can about how the disaster is likely to impact near-term orders. Discuss workarounds that may help keep parts of the business operating as usual, whenever it makes sense and is an option.

Customers: Let your customers know that you experienced a disaster and that you are working to restore regular operations and services as quickly as possible. Try to anticipate and address common questions, and also let customers know relevant details about the recovery process, such as if your doors will remain open throughout the recovery (or partially open).

5) Activate Your Contingency Plan

Now that the wheels are in motion for a recovery, you need a triage plan for limiting business losses as much as possible until you return to full operations. If you’ve already developed a contingency plan, it might be as simple as flipping a switch and diverting operations and resources to another location (and if that’s the case, this step might even come as early as step two in the recovery process). Otherwise, you will need to look at the big picture, prioritize actions that will be key to keeping your customers happy and sustaining your business and get moving.

Don’t Forget to Breathe
When you’re in the midst of a disaster, things can quickly start to feel overwhelming. Using the steps outlined in this post will help you stay focused and in better control of the situation.