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How to Build an Effective Emergency Response Plan for Your Small Business

by Olufisayo
emergency response plan

You know how the old adage goes: Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

Alas, as many as 60% of Americans fail to prepare for a disaster.

Emergency response planning should be the solution. Essentially, you never know when disaster will strike. Consequently, you put a plan in place beforehand to deal with the potential threat(s).

For small businesses, this can be the difference between staying operational and going insolvent! Disasters of any kind can cost millions of dollars to resolve.

Unfortunately, as any business owner knows, the potential for disaster is high. Fortunes can change at the drop of a hat. Technical issues, property issues, terrorist issues, economic issues, environmental issues, and so on can all play a role.

Planning for the worst is absolutely vital for navigating possible future problems. Looking for help with this process?

Keep reading for 7 top tips on building your small business’ emergency response plan.

1. Secure Management Backing

Let’s imagine you see the need for emergency planning, but realize nothing is being done about it.

The first step to making anything happen is getting top-tier management behind you. Nothing will change if your bosses don’t see the need to plan for the worst.

Of course, if you’re the top dog in the business, then the problem starts and ends with you. With no-one to answer to, it’s your responsibility to act.

Whatever the case, risk assessment is a key second step. Having a solid understanding of the risks can be an effective way of persuading management to address the issue.

More on risk assessments next.

2. Risk Assess All Possible Problems

You need to understand exactly how your business might come to suffer.

It’s about forecasting. You can’t prepare for an emergency if you don’t know what it will look like. This is where a risk-assessment is so vital. You must assess the situation, realize the risks and hazards, and proceed from there.

For instance, is there the danger of natural disasters? What about technological catastrophes? Could all of your business data be hacked? What condition is your business property in? What’s the state of the market? How are times changing and trends shifting?

All of these areas could pose enormous problems for your business. From there, think about the likelihood of them happening, and the steps you could take to mitigate them.

If you aren’t the one calling the shots, then take your assessment to the senior management team. Your work is more likely to ensure they back an emergency plan.

Of course, if you’re the one in charge, now’s the time to take action and get planning.

3. Run an Impact Analysis

Another important step to consider is the impact these potential issues could have.

It is one thing to know the emergencies that might happen. Knowing the impact of them is another altogether. That’s why you should run an impact analysis alongside the risk assessment.

Think about how the business would suffer.

For example, environmental and technological issues could lead to expensive downtime and loss of production. Losing customer personal data might lead to lawsuits. Property damage might render operations impossible. Workforces might be in physical danger. Staff may lose their jobs.

And so on.

Need to secure buy-in from senior managers? Take all of this information to them alongside the risk assessment.

4. Create an Emergency Response Team

Let’s imagine you’re in charge, or have successfully secured the backing of executives.

Now the fun really starts. This is where you begin enacting the emergency plan. A valuable first step is compiling a group of people from across the company. Assemble your ‘A-team’.

Take individuals from different departments (or from the locations that make sense in terms of emergency response) who are charged with responding to emergencies. Think of them as first-responders, or first-aiders. When disaster strikes, it’s up to them to enact the plan.

Establish each person’s role for each emergency potentiality. Ensure everyone knows and agrees upon their responsibilities. Arrange a periodic meeting to update and refresh.

5. Form the Plan Itself

You’re now in a position to plan for the different emergencies highlighted in your risk assessment.

Come together with your new A-team to determine the best approach to each one.

Be thorough and unrelenting in your desire to cover all bases. Think about each and every scenario and plan accordingly. Know who will do what, when and where. Of course, it might pay to consult with an expert on this.

Write everything up into a coherent, simple plan and be sure to advertise it accordingly.

6. Get Everyone Up to Speed

The next step is making sure everyone else knows what to do!

It’s no good planning for emergencies if the workforce is unaware of the procedures you’ve put in place. Training and education is key to upskilling everyone.

People tend to panic in emergencies. It’s naturally a high intensity, stressful situation. It’s vital that people know exactly what to do. If they don’t, then the plan will be forgotten and chaos will ensue.

Like fire alarm drills, you should practice the different scenarios at regular intervals throughout the year. Make it a priority that everyone understands how to handle the disaster if/when it occurs.

Consider also getting a commercial fire alarm system. If you wish to know the costs for such systems, read this guide.

Remember to keep training and fine-tuning over time. Likewise, keep monitoring for new threats too. Make it a habit to risk assess periodically.

7. Purchase Essential Emergency Items

Make sure you have all the gear you’ll need on the premises too.

For instance, basic safety equipment should be provided as standard. Personal protective equipment should already be on site. Fire extinguishers, fire exit signs, high visibility vests, and so on should all be around.

Likewise, think about buying a backup generator. If the power goes, then serious repercussions can follow. For example, imagine IT firms losing power to their computers and servers! You can shop used generators.

Time to Build Your Emergency Response Plan

There you have it: everything you need to know about building your emergency response plan.

Unfortunately, disasters happen. No matter the source, the potential for emergency situations is always there. Of course, sod’s law dictates that it almost always happens when you least expect it to as well.

The only sensible approach is to plan for the worst. Emergencies can reap havoc on businesses and put many out or business every year. Having a risk-assessment and well-rehearsed plan in place may well save the day.

Hopefully, the information here will help you establish one as soon as possible!

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