Five Steps to Help You Plan For a Fast Recovery after a Disaster

–By Summer Signer

In the event of an unforeseen disaster, do you have the resources in place to keep your employees safe while resuming business in a reasonable amount of time? 

“It is estimated that 90 percent of medium to large companies that can’t resume near-normal operations within 5 days of an emergency will go out of business.” – Neal Rawls, security columnist “Avoiding Disaster” by John Laye, 2002

Disasters in any form can disrupt your business, your employees and the community. Knowing how to react before and during a disaster makes all the difference. Your goal should be to help reduce a disasters’ impact to your business by putting a plan in place for emergency preparedness.

The main elements of disaster preparedness are life safety, business continuity plans and buildings/infrastructure.  Life safety deals with protecting the safety of your employees in the event of a disaster.  Any type of building can experience an emergency such as fires, floods, explosions, chemical spills, medical emergencies, terrorist attacks as well as a variety of other incidents.    Put into practice a well executed safety and evacuation plan as well as ongoing education and training initiatives for key personnel.

A business continuity plan determines how the company will be maintained in the face of a disaster.  It is important to provide your employees with a copy of the business continuity plan and hold mandatory meetings annually to review the procedures and test the plan. 

Get to know your building and your business infrastructure.  Know your building inside and out including the location of all emergency exits.  In order to keep your organization performing at its optimum operational efficiency and profitability following a disaster, it is important to undergo periodic infrastructure assessments. These analyses are designed to gauge the organization's information technology management, security and efficiency and its ability to get back to normal business operations following an emergency. 


When preparing your business for disaster recovery, consider these steps recommended by the American Red Cross and other assistance groups:

1.  Provide your business with efficient, reliable document backup and storage

Store copies of important documents such as insurance policies, business licenses, and property deeds in an off-site location such as a bank or other secure facility. Use remote servers to store computer files containing client lists, payroll records, and contracts away from the business itself.

2.  Have a ready supply of disaster preparation tools and equipment

Devise your own preparedness arsenal by stocking up on dust masks, plastic sheeting, plywood sheets, bottled water, first aid kits, fire extinguishers, and other necessary supplies.

Also, be sure to keep police and fire department contact information close at hand, along with contact information for local utility companies, the local Red Cross chapter, and the National Weather Service.

3.  Ensure business continuity with a thorough COOP 

Building a continuity of operations plan, or COOP, ensures that your business will continue operating even if its physical facilities become damaged or destroyed. The best COOPs include contingencies for providing temporary office space and equipment, and establish a clear chain of command and responsibility among company personnel that lasts for the duration of the disaster.

Business owners should also take steps to ensure that their lines of communication with creditors, business partners, and clients remain open during the disaster period. 

4.  Prepare and train your employees  

The Red Cross recommends that 10 to 15 percent of a company’s workforce be trained in CPR and first aid. These same personnel can also serve within the company as safety team leaders, guiding employees from the business facility in the event of emergency and coordinating evacuation efforts. 

5.  Prequalify an emergency restoration partner 

Business owners should prequalify an emergency restoration and reconstruction company before a disaster occurs. By partnering with a vendor beforehand, there is a greater chance of saving your building, reducing the cost of the claim, and recovering more quickly.

There are several key factors for selecting the best service providers:


  • People you can trust
  • People who care about your priorities and concerns
  • Find the right match – Is this company a good fit for ours?           


  • A company with a reputation for doing the right thing in all circumstances
  • Strong employee recruitment and screening policies
  • A proven track record

Experience and Quality

  • Experienced employees 
  • Safety and Training are priorities
  • A knowledge of legal requirements for performing work (licenses, etc…)


  • A primary point of contact (or a group of individuals) dedicated to you and your account
  • A partner who offers the services you need (e.g. emergency response to complete rebuild if needed)
  • National coverage to ensure consistent service and pricing
  • Excellent communication practices

The key is not to wait until a disaster occurs to develop a plan.  Have a solid plan in place, practice evacuation, test your systems and prepare your employees ahead of time.