Disasters happen. No matter how well-prepared you are, there will come a time when you need to call on your disaster preparedness plan. When there’s an unexpected natural disaster, pandemic outbreak, cyber security breach or other unforeseen events, what you do afterward can make all the difference between business as usual and cutting production until things get back to normal. 

A small business might not think of themselves as being at risk from natural disasters, hackers or pandemic outbreaks — but they can strike anyone. Small businesses tend to have fewer resources than bigger companies and may be less likely to have a secondary location they can use after an emergency strikes their primary office. However, there are steps business owners can take to set them up for success when it comes to handling emergencies if they take the right steps in advance.

Disasters You Should Prepare For

Small businesses are disproportionately affected by natural disasters. The effects of natural disasters on small businesses tend to be worse than on larger companies because they have fewer backup facilities and employees, as well as resources. While there is no way to completely shield your business from harm, you can minimize the risks involved by getting prepared.

As a starting point, here are some types of events to start your disaster preparedness initiatives for:

Cyber Attacks

A cyber attack can shut down your business in more ways than one. A denial of service attack, for example, can overload your network and shut it down. Ransomware can encrypt your files and data and force you to pay a fee to get them back. A cyber breach could also expose your company to reputational risk if customer data is breached along with other sensitive information. 

A cyber breach could also expose your company to reputational risk if customer data is breached along with other sensitive information. If your business is heavily reliant on technology, you are at significant risk of losing your ability to operate during and after a cyber attack. Make sure your network is up-to-date and use strong passwords across all your accounts. Also, consider investing in cyber security insurance to cover some of your costs if a breach does occur.

Cybersecurity experts recommend small businesses have an incident response plan in place, which lays out the chain of command that will be activated if your company is hacked or experiences a data breach. This includes having a system in place to actively detect potential security concerns. 

Fire

Fire can damage your business in a number of ways, causing physical damage to equipment, buildings, and inventory. Fires also create toxins that can lead to public health emergencies. If your facility processes commodities like oil, chemicals, or other dangerous materials, there could be an environmental impact in the event of a fire, including toxic fumes and spills. 

Firefighters will do their best to minimize the damage, but there is always a risk. In the event of a fire, you must shut down production and move employees to safe locations. You may also need to respond to concerns from customers and regulators about the impact the fire could have on their health and safety.

Flooding

Flooding can cause significant damage to your building, inventory, and equipment. It can also lead to public health emergencies, particularly if the waters are contaminated. If your building is in a floodplain, you will want to take special precautions to protect your facility from rising waters. You may also want to look into flood insurance if your business is at risk. 

Natural Disasters

Natural disasters come in every shape and size, from tornadoes and wildfires to hurricanes and floods. They can cause significant damage to your building and disrupt your supply chain. Natural disasters can also lead to public health crises, with injuries, illnesses, and death. If you are in a region prone to natural disasters, you will want to take special precautions to protect your facility from potential damage. 

You may want to consider investing in special building materials that can withstand high winds and heavy rains. You will also want to prepare for potential disruptions to your supply chain, including a rise in demand for your products.

Natural disasters can knock out power and cell phone service, making it difficult for you to get in touch with customers, suppliers, emergency services, and other essential contacts. This is a particular concern if you are a small business that relies on internet-based business solutions. You may also need to replace damaged equipment or buildings, which can take significant time and money.

Build A Disaster Preparedness Plan

Disasters can strike at any time. However, you can prepare for major disruptions like floods, fires, and other accidents by creating a disaster preparedness plan. This plan will help you know what to do in the event of an emergency, including where to evacuate employees and where to store important documents like employee records and customer data. 

A disaster preparedness plan will also help you know what facilities you need to protect and how to minimize risks, including securing sensitive materials against potential threats. You can start by creating a risk assessment for your facilities, including assessing potential damage from floods, fires, and other disasters. 

You should also look at your supply chain and customer data. This includes how and where you store information and which data law requires you to protect. Once you’ve identified the risks you face, you can work with your team to develop a business continuity strategy to minimize the impacts of potential disruptions. A business continuity strategy helps you re-open your business as soon as possible after a disaster strikes. This includes providing an alternate location for your employees to work while you make critical repairs.

Data Backup Strategies

Make sure you have a backup plan in case important data is lost due to a computer glitch, flood, fire, or another disaster. You can use online cloud services to store data outside your facility. This includes customer information and sensitive information like financial records. You can also use offline data backup strategies to protect data like:

  • Physical backups
  • Online remote backup services
  • Uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems 

Employee Training And Protocols

Disaster preparedness is not a one-time process. You need to continually train your employees in emergency response protocols. You will also need to make sure they follow those protocols when emergencies happen. This will help your employees know what to do in the event of a fire, flood, or other emergencies. Let them know where to evacuate and where to store important documents. 

It will also help them know how to minimize the impact of viruses and other computer threats. This includes reporting issues and taking appropriate steps to avoid spreading malware. An emergency response plan will also help you know where to locate critical documents. This must include copies of important customer data and regulatory records.

Make an Action Plan

Finally, you can make an action plan to prepare for all the potential disasters you’ve identified. This plan should include what you need to do before a disaster strikes, like updating your business continuity strategy with your risk assessment. It should also include what you need to do when an emergency happens. 

An action plan can help you minimize the impact of disasters. This includes helping you prepare for an influx of customers. It can also help you re-open your business as soon as possible after a disaster strikes.

Partnering With an Answering Service to Keep Communications Open

Having an existing contract in place with an answering service can help to keep communications with customers open despite the disaster. The representatives are likely not located in your immediate area and would not have the same disruptions. Your answering service will have already made preparations for these types of situations. They have the necessary equipment to keep the lines open. Your customers will still be able to contact your company through the answering service. This can help to maintain positive relationships with customers and alleviate anxiety. 

Contact Answer Aide to Learn More About How An Answer Service Can Be a Part of Your Disaster Preparedness Plan

Disasters happen and small businesses must prepare for the worst. You can start by identifying the biggest risks to your business. Then make an action plan to minimize the impacts of potential disruptions. You can also make sure to train your employees in emergency response protocols. With these steps in place, you can better respond to a disaster. This makes it easier to get your business up and running as quickly as possible.

If you’re ready to get started with a professional answering service, we’re here to help. Contact Answer Aide by calling (866) 427-3500 or by filling out our online form. We’re happy to partner with you to support your business while it grows.