The tragic unfolding of events in the wake of hurricane Katrina should first serve as a call to help those who are suffering in the aftermath. And while for the foreseeable future the small and medium sized businesses in the south will be recovering their property, salvage operations and starting over, those of us outside the area should reflect on how we secure and continue our business when a disaster occurs. Of course, no amount of planning could prepare for the devastation wrought by this storm or the power outage that paralyzed the northeast a couple of years ago. Nevertheless, firms can plan to protect themselves from natural and man-made disasters that routinely occur on smaller scales.
Disaster preparedness is just another element that small and medium business owners must deal with. Many times planning for disaster or business continuity is given so little consideration that even a small event can upset or threaten the viability of the unprepared firm. It should not require a cataclysmic event like Katrina to goad one into action. And, of course, planning to mitigate the effects of a disaster of this scale is foolish and a waste of time. Katrina's swath of destruction covers almost 100,000 square miles. According to FEMA, 40% of small businesses in the disaster area may never recover. The small business owner must be prepared for disasters or events with a plan and responses commensurate with their ability to handle.
The SBA has posted some useful planning guidelines on their Disaster Recovery sub-site. There is an outline for consideration, tips and useful links to publications and services that may help to Get Ready - Get Prepared with a disaster recovery plan. Among the things that must be considered and addressed:
- A disaster planning toolkit
- Facilities-Building and Equipment
- Critical information and communications, and
Other links for assistance with planning includes the Red Cross guide Preparing Your Business For the Unthinkable and Open for Business from the Institute for Business and Home Safety. Both of these sites have checklists, suggestions and useful recommendations of things to have at the ready or to have done to deal with the disasters that can be anticipated. The IBHS site has an excellent set of downloadable forms to follow in .doc format. And the Better Business Bureau has these links as well as others for planning, preparation and steps to take after disaster happens.
It is axiomatic that the time to plan for business continuity is before disaster strikes. Panic is not condusive to planning. Putting together a response on the fly once disaster or disruption occurs is problematic and usually ineffective. So after making a donation to help the victims or volunteering to collect money or just saying a prayer for those surviving Katrina, take some time this weekend and think about what you need to recover and operate your business after disaster strikes. Planning the response to a network failure, a fire, flood or local power outage is time well spent.