The “Dragon Test” and 10 Tips for Preparing for Emergencies and Disasters
“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
Unlike dragons, natural disasters and business emergencies are all too real. After all, 2017 was a record year for billion-dollar weather-related disasters in the U.S., with a spate of wildfires, hurricanes and severe storms.1 Yet when your business or area hasn’t been hit by an emergency or disaster in years or decades, it can become as easy to ignore real threats as it is to ignore those of mythical creatures.
The “Dragon Test”
The reality is that all regions of the U.S. are prone to natural and man-made disasters of some form. Take a couple of minutes to pause and imagine how you and the rest of your employees would respond if your building experienced a major pipe break or was in the path of a tornado, fire, flood or other event that could occur in your area.
Who would be in charge? Would your teams know what steps should be taken to minimize risks to people and damage to your business?
Or would you stand paralyzed like the stunned villagers in a movie who see the awesome destructive force of a dragon for the first time?
Silliness of the analogy aside, preparation is critical to business survival. In fact, FEMA estimates that up to 60% of small businesses never fully recover from a disaster, with most of them failing within a year if they are unable to reopen doors within five days.2
If you’re not confident your business is prepared for “dragons,” here are 10 things you can do to get preparedness back on track:
- Create your response team. Assign someone to be in charge of coordinating emergency and disaster preparedness as well as team members from each department.
- Understand your biggest risks. Take some time to understand the potential types of disasters that are likely in your area and how they could impact your business.
- Prepare an emergency kit. Put together the supplies you would need in a worst-case scenario, including things like a first aid kit, bottled water, flashlights and a battery or solar-powered radio.
- Develop a disaster recovery plan (DRP). As soon as possible, start documenting your teams, emergency contacts, and plans and procedures for disaster response in a central DRP document.
- Audit staff skills. Find out who on your staff has first-aid, CPR and other relevant emergency skills and keep a list.
- Survey your properties for dangers or vulnerabilities. Considering the types of disasters you could face, consider areas of your building that could be dangerous in a disaster or may need extra protections or considerations during an event.
- Think big picture. Although your first concern should be planning for emergencies within your operations, don’t forget to plan for supplier disasters.
- Provide training. Make sure your core response team and broader staff practice skills and responsibilities that will be important if the lights go out.
- Stay vigilant. Set a reminder to update your DRP on a regular basis, paying special attention to staff job changes or turnover and other items that regularly change over time.
- Partner with a restoration provider ahead of time. Establishing a relationship with an emergency restoration provider before a disaster hits helps speed the response and reduce downtime and recovery costs.
Keep an Eye on the Horizon
At the end of the day, it’s good to think of emergency and disaster planning as a work in progress. You don’t have to do it all at once, but it’s important that you work to get a good plan in place and keep it up to date so you’re prepared for the unknown. A good plan along with an ongoing partnership with a disaster restoration provider will put you on a much smoother and faster track to recovery. And that could make all of the difference in the survival and long-term success of your business.
12017 U.S. billion-dollar weather and climate disasters: a historic year in context, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, January 2018.
2Infographic: Make Your Business Resilient, FEMA, 2015.