Look and Act Professionally
All we have to do is see the news or weather programs to get an idea of what could happen to any business. Consider the vast array of conditions we all prefer to not think about:
- Mere loss of power or internet service
- Enforcement of a lock-down, announced by law enforcement
- Catastrophic loss from fire, tornado, earthquake, mud slide, flood (causing partial or total loss).
- Incapacitation or death of a significant player in the business.
Regardless of whether a disaster strikes in the midst of a busy work day or the middle of a deep sleep, things will be easier if you are prepared.
Preparing Your Business:
- Have an emergency plan in place, and train employees on a regular basis.
- Carry adequate property and liability insurance coverage. Meet with a professional to ensure you have your bases covered. (Campground owners, Tom Gerken taught me more about insurance than any other agent/broker.)
- Scan important documents in case the originals were to become damaged (employee contracts, lease agreements, etc.), or store them in a fire-proof safe.
- Consider scanning photographs which haven’t been stored electronically.
- Take photographs of the current condition and current asset inventory (when I ran an RV park, which had personal property across 15 acres, as well as retail inventory in the store, I took videos as I walked the interiors and exteriors of the entire property).
- Perform frequent data/file back-ups, preferably to a ‘cloud’ or at least to an off-premise location.
- If your business is located on property which creates its own utilities (such as water from a well), be sure people know what to do before, during and after a power outage.
- Post emergency phone numbers by the telephone (primarily non-911 numbers for utility outages).
- Consider how you want the cash register to be handled (locked vs till removed).
- Consider designating an out of area text-user to be your contact. Overloaded cell towers hinder communications immediately after widespread damage; text messages have a higher chance of going through than a cell phone call. This will then give you a point of contact who can reassure others of your situation. (Example: A relative of mine in FL is my legally appointed rep, but she doesn’t have text service so a friend in CO is my text connection, and these two people are connected via social media and email.)
- I repeat, have an emergency plan for all types of emergencies, and train your staff on each emergency plan on a regular basis. Do not just have them read the manual. Train them!
Protecting Employees and Customers:
- Outline where you want people to congregate. If possible, have this be well-marked for all to see.
- Have a location selected for meeting after the emergency, to account for everybody. If you are largely open to the public, consider how you will know who all you need to account for.
- Have two-way communication devices for employees (if cell towers are knocked out or become overwhelmed).
- In regard to weather emergencies, create the habit of ensuring your mobile devices are charged when weather turns severe. When I see watches being posted, I start charging!
- Stock a shelter ahead of time with protective gear, emergency kits, possibly bottled water and snacks.
My small business is performed in my home. I need to protect just myself and my 2 cats, so my emergency shelter is always stocked with:
Change of clothing
Spare set of all my keys
If there is time, I task myself with catching my 2 cats and grabbing my purse, medications, laptop, cell phone and iPad, and their respective chargers (fortunately, most of these happen to be located near the stairwell to my shelter). If I’m unable to save my laptop and/or iPad, my data is fully retrievable from a ‘cloud’ so life will continue with or without the devices.
Pet owners: In my shelter supplies, aside from what I mentioned above, I also keep a large photograph of each cat in case we’re not in the shelter when disaster strikes, should the cats become missing. I also have those two pictures in my ‘cloud,’ ready for electronic posting and distribution.
Disaster could also come in the form of injury or death of a vital key person in your organization, such as the owner or manager:
- Among the forms in the new-employee file should be an Emergency Action form outlining basic information in case the person becomes unable to communicate (name and phone number of nearest family member or friend, family doctor’s name and phone number, hospital preference, etc.). Keep this file handy for all employees to access in emergency. Don’t overlook adding your own sheet so staff will know what to do if you’re unable to communicate.
- Consider carrying insurance for medical, life, and long-term care (to name a few), as well as having a medical advance directive (living will). In such a crisis, the directive clarifies your wishes, removing the burden from the shoulders of others.
- Consider having a durable power-of-attorney, through which someone is given the authority to manage (or even liquidate) your business should you become incapacitated. I faced this reality head-on when my husband passed away a year into our new life as campground owners. It was a very active business, requiring constant attention to customers. Business went on regardless of whether our personal life was on track or derailed. As a widow, if an accident incapacitated me, someone would be needed to have the authority to run my business, pay the bills, receive the sales income, hire or fire staff, and possibly even sell the business and liquidate my assets. Oh yes,and couples need to also prepare for the extreme situation of the simultaneous demise.
- Consider … no, wait … stop considering and just do it … plan your estate! Either create your will, establish your trust, or do whatever it is you’re going to do to legally prepare for your passing. While you’re preparing, ensure your real and personal property is titled in the manner most appropriate for your wishes. (Legal advisors are advised!)
- Consider having a fire-proof file box for your important papers, including a copy of the front and back side of each credit card, driver’s license, and medical card. This could be a good place to store information for the person you have appointed to be your representative through a durable power-of-attorney or your estate. (I don’t try to keep my appointed representative up-to-date on every detail of my business life, but she knows where my file box can be found and where I store its key. She doesn’t need to be burdened with any further details; the burden of the details becomes hers only when executing her legal powers.)
- Consider storing your fire-proof file box in or near your emergency shelter. I have seen them stored on an upper floor, but when the floor gave way in the fire, the box had fallen far from where it was supposed to have been found. In case of a tornado, things can land far from home. Having your box in your shelter may be a wise decision.
Emergencies are important. You may not think so, but when an emergency occurs, you will be very grateful for the effort you put into preparations.
This isn’t even close to being an exhaustive listing of To Do items, but it’s my hope I’ve planted a seed for you to nurture. Every business is unique, from whether you own vs lease the building, have customers onsite vs online, and you have just 1 vs 200 employees. Accept that emergencies are possible, and evaluate your situation before the emergency occurs.
MORE ABOUT YOUR PLAN:
- You should have a plan for every imaginable type of emergency.
- Each plan can be as simple as a checklist, or quite elaborate, so long as you make it easy to find and easy to follow during not-so-calm conditions.
- Keep it brief! Training is to explain ramifications and outline the “if this then that” situations, while this list needs to simply remind them of their training.
Thank you for sharing your time with me! Please feel free to leave comments, or share or ‘like’ this with your connections.