This winter was a record breaker for the majority of the country. From snowfall, ice to frigidly cold temperatures, this winter was brutal. Spring, even though it is just under way, is showing that it too may be on track to break records. From heavy rains to tornadoes, many cities, homes and businesses have been damaged and, in the worst cases, devastated. The Gulf Coast Back to Business Act (2007) reports that 43% of businesses that close following a natural disaster never reopen.

Preparation and preparedness are the keys to your business recovering from a disaster.

Preparation and preparedness are the keys to your business recovering from a disaster.

So as a business owner, what can you do to prepare for a disaster?

Experience a Mock Disaster – One of the best ways to identify the critical systems of your business is to perform a mock disaster exercise. Create a mock disaster and consider all of the important systems of your business: electricity, facility, personnel, phone systems, computer systems, and suppliers. How would you operate if one or all of these systems were interrupted for extended periods of time? During this step, identify processes and procedures to operate the business via other methods. For example, if there is not any electricity, does it make sense to have a backup generator in place?

Identify your Risk Tolerance – Now that you have identified your critical systems and how they impact your ability to do business, the next step is to determine your tolerance for risk. How many days could your business stay closed without having a significant impact on your business? Take a look at the amount of business lost per day that you are closed and weigh that against the cost of having backup systems and plans in place. For example, if you determine that you can be closed for 5 days with a recoverable impact to the business, then your plan and backup systems should support that. It would not be cost effective to have a solution that provides a 24 hour recovery time.

Fine tune your current processes – Take a look at your current processes for backing up critical systems and information, disaster prevention and your supply chain. Are you performing daily backups of your computer and telephone systems? Are these backups stored onsite or offsite?  Do you have equipment and procedures onsite to prevent/respond to a disaster (fire extinguishers and fire suppression equipment, evacuation plans, tornado response procedures). Is your supply chain diversified or are you reliant on a single supplier? These processes can vary depending on your business, but these are just a few examples of processes that should be reviewed and optimized.

Find Partners – Seek out professional solution providers to meet your recovery time requirements. There are many qualified vendors who can provide everything from an offsite data center to providing temporary office space and equipment.

Document your Plan – Now that you have identified your critical systems and processes and partnered with solution providers, it is important to put this information in writing and distribute to key personnel. Remember to store at least one version of your plan offsite.  Your plan won’t do you much good if it is in your facility when the disaster strikes.

When considering disaster planning, many of us procrastinate and think that it won’t happen to our business. This type of thinking can have a detrimental effect on your business. Preparation and preparedness are the keys to your business recovering from a disaster. So start planning now before a disaster strikes.