Our Hampton Roads communities cannot fully recover from a disaster such as a hurricane without you being back in business. A significant percentage of businesses do not reopen after a major disaster like a hurricane, flood, or tornado. These shuttered businesses were unprepared for a disaster because they had no plan or backup systems. Don’t let this happen to your business. You should start by first, organizing your own disaster planning team. Your team should develop strategies in these three critical areas: human resources; physical resources; and business continuity.
Start Building Your Plan Now
- Keep phone lists of your key employees and customers with you and provide copies to key staff members.
- If you have a voice mail system at your office, designate one remote number on which you can record messages for employees. Provide the number to all employees.
- Arrange for programmable call forwarding for your main business line(s). Then, if you can't get to the office, you can call in and reprogram the phones to ring elsewhere.
- If you may not be able to get to your office quickly after an emergency, leave keys and alarm code(s) with a trusted employee or friend who is closer.
- Install emergency lights that turn on when the power goes out.
- Back up computer data frequently throughout the business day. Keep a backup tape off-site.
- Use UL-listed surge protectors and battery backup systems to add protection for sensitive equipment and help prevent a computer crash if the power goes out.
- Purchase a NOAA Weather Radio with a tone alert feature. Keep it on and when the signal sounds, listen for information about severe weather and protective actions to take.
- Stock a minimum supply of the goods, materials and equipment you would need for business continuity.
- Consult with your insurance agent about precautions to take for disasters that may directly impact your business, and review exactly what is and is NOT covered in your policy. Protect valuable property & equipment with special riders.
- Stock emergency supplies including flashlights and batteries, first aid kit, tools, and food & water for employees.
- Plan for possible disruption of cash flow and make plans accordingly.
- Discuss this plan with your employees and make it a ‘team.’
- Your staff should know First Aid / CPR. Sign-up for a workplace course with your local Red Cross chapter.
Reduce Potential Damage
Prevent or reduce disaster damage in your facility by taking these precautions:
- Prepare for possible flooding. Keep items elevated from floor. Bolt tall shelves/bookcases/display cases to wall studs.
- Protect breakable objects by securing them to a stand or shelf using hook-and-loop fasteners.
- Move large objects from upper shelves that could fall and break or injure someone.
- Install latches to keep drawers and cabinets from flying open and dumping their contents.
- Use closed screw eyes and wire to securely attach framed pictures and mirrors to walls.
- Use plumber's tape or strap iron to wrap around a hot water heater to secure it to wall studs.
- Consider installing flexible connectors to appliances and equipment fueled by natural gas. Install automatic fire sprinklers.
Protect Your Employees, Customers and Business
Everyone in your facility should know how to prepare for a disaster and what to do if a disaster occurs. Designate one employee from each work shift to be the safety coordinator. This person will make all decisions relating to employee and customer safety and to the safety of the business itself. Safety coordinators should know how to contact the owner or manager at all times.
To get help today with your business disaster plan, connect with your local Red Cross Disaster Services office by visiting www.myredcross.net. For more information on business preparedness online, visit the Prepare Hampton Roads website at www.preparehr.org.
Louise McCarthy is the Disaster Services Coordinator for the American Red Cross of Southeastern Virginia. Reach her at (757) 446-7760.