Expect the Unexpected: Prepare Your Business for an Unforeseen Emergency

August 21, 2012  |  


Insurance provides businesses with financial protection in the event company property is damaged, can protect against libel lawsuits and safeguard against civil claims customers may file against a business due to employee errors. Businesses can even purchase reputation insurance to help with the cost of hiring a PR firm when a corporate crisis arises.

Even with this coverage, a business continuity plan is a necessity.

Business continuity plans help prepare employees, business owners and members of senior management teams to respond to unexpected emergencies, such as something weather-related like Hurricane Katrina or a fire. After heading up business continuity plans for a Fortune 500 corporation for several years, I’ve learned that key components of effective business continuity plans include a few key items:

  • An employee contact list that contains telephone numbers and addresses for each employee and independent contractor working at a firm.
  • A list of business continuity team members, a group selected by senior managers (or the senior managers themselves) along with members from the security, medical, human resource, technology and real estate teams.
  • Actions to be taken during building evacuations.
  • Names and contact information of key clients. Irrespective of your title, if you work with clients, you should have a backup system. An emergency could even be something isolated to a department, like a major computer problem. A business will need to contact clients and notify them of alternative operation plans in the event of a business interruption.
  • Alternate work locations. With Internet access, many employees can work from home. However, if you plan to use an alternate work location, regularly check the computers and other equipment in that space.

Each employee should receive a copy of the business continuity plan. And members of the business continuity teams should know the specific functions they are to fulfill in the event of a business interruption or unexpected emergency.

To ensure employees know how to respond to emergencies, conduct regular building evacuations and call tree and emergency notification tests. Call tree tests ensure that each employee in the firm, usually by department, is contacted during an emergency. Consider using software to automate call tree and emergency notification tests. Notification tests are performed to ensure managers know how to provide employees with action steps that should be taken after a business interruption.

Having the ability to resume critical business functions following a business interruption can distinguish your company as an industry leader. And being ready for the unexpected will make you an outstanding member of the staff when the company most needs them.

Rhonda Campbell, an East Coast journalist, is the owner of Off The Shelf radio and publisher of Long Walk Up and Love Pour Over Me.

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