Guidebook on How to Prepare Your Business for a Natural Disaster

Ruined building after earthquake natural disaster

A natural disaster preparedness plan consists of the steps a business owner must take before, during, and after a disaster. The plan describes a system for preventing data loss and sets guidelines for recovering from a disaster. Does your business have a natural disaster preparedness plan?

Why do you need a disaster preparedness plan?

Maybe you’re thinking your business doesn’t need one because it’s not in an area that typically faces natural hazards. Or that your property insurance is sufficient enough as an emergency plan. However, these excuses do not justify the absence of a disaster preparedness plan for several reasons. 

First, you never know when a natural disaster could occur; there’s always some risk. And if a disaster occurs and you aren’t ready, it could be challenging to recover from the damages. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 40 percent of small businesses cannot reopen after a disaster, and 25 percent of those that reopen fail in the next year. 

Another reason for constructing an emergency prep plan is that insurance only covers the aftermath when the damage is already done. Most of the time, it’s too late to recover data, essential documents, and IT infrastructure. These losses can be catastrophic for your business. So here are some tips for how to prepare your business for a natural disaster. 

A Complete Business Guide for Preparing for a Natural Disaster

Know Which Disasters Could Affect Your Business

The first step to preparing for a natural disaster is knowing which disasters typically affect your region. After all, the disasters in Florida are different from those in California. Next, you’ll want to gauge the likelihood of each weather event occurring, how it may impact operations, and what aspects are most vulnerable.

You can work with your local emergency management office to assess natural hazard risk in your area. Then, outline a plan for how to mitigate risk and impact. 

Review your Insurance Plan

Ensure you understand the damage types covered by your business insurance policy. For example, some policies may not cover water damage from floods or other damages. Make changes and updates to your policy based on your business needs and the disasters typically affecting your area. Ensure your plan is large enough to account for all property, employees, and assets. 

Create a Business Disaster Response Plan

Disaster response team preparing for natural disaster

Designate a team to create a disaster response plan. The team should be made up of people from each department and outline the following:

  • Identify the most vulnerable aspects of each department and how to minimize risk.
  • Prepare an evacuation plan and disaster protocol.
  • Establish escape routes, safe spaces, and meeting points.
  • Assign someone to take charge during an evacuation.
  • Prepare the property.
  • Evaluate document losses.
  • Assist with recovery.
  • Test the response plan.

Establish Communication Channels

It’s necessary to have open communication with all parties affected by natural disasters. Host periodical meetings and training to update employees about disaster protocol, preparedness efforts, and evacuation plans. Employees should also be aware of the recovery plan and how to proceed after a natural disaster.

Designate communication channels through which you can inform employees and affected parties. Phone, email, and social media are a few ways to notify all parties involved, including employees, customers, stakeholders, emergency workers, property damage restoration companies, and insurance companies.

Backup Data and Documents

External hard drive connected to laptop

Losing essential data and documents can make it challenging to get back on your feet. Thankfully, with the invention of cloud computing software, this is less of a worry these days. 

However, if your business doesn’t use a cloud computing system, you’ll want to back up your data to an external drive kept in a secure, off-site location. You should also keep scanned copies of critical documents on the external drive. 

Another tip is to keep the original documents and licensed software at an off-site location and only keep the copies in the office. 

Implement new company policies that require employees to scan all documents and conduct daily data backups. 

Safeguard Electronic Devices

Some natural disasters can cause power outages for extended periods. Without power, it can be difficult for companies to run their operations. So, in addition to using surge protectors, you should invest in backup generators or an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) device. Emergency power methods can keep your systems running for a short period after the outage, so you can safely shut everything down and protect your devices.

Create a Business Continuity Plan

Two people reviewing business disaster insurance policy

Preparing for natural disasters will help alleviate some risks and prevent total losses. A business recovery or continuity plan will help you get your business up and running again. The business continuity plan should contain:

  • Important contacts such as phone numbers for insurance and damage restoration companies.
  • Insurance information.
  • When and how to enter the building after the disaster.
  • Steps for documenting the damage.
  • How to salvage items. 
  • Locations of critical documents and electronic files.
  • A temporary place to conduct necessary business in case of extreme damage. 

As a business owner, it’s essential to plan for natural disasters. So save yourself the worry, and take action now.