Ways to Prep Your Staff for Disaster

Date: May 13, 2009

Disaster PlanningNo matter how well your business is managed, there are certain emergency situations that you cannot control, whether it be a natural disaster such as a hurricane or a human-created catastrophe such as a fire. While you can't prevent such occurrences from happening, you can make sure your business is able to keep operations going -- even if in a limited capacity -- following unexpected emergencies by preparing your staff in advance.

Discuss the possibilities.

Once a disaster occurs, it's too late to come up with a contingency plan, which is why it's important to brainstorm solutions to potential problems before they come up. Meet with key personnel to make a list of all of the types of emergencies your business could possibly experience, paying particular attention to those you are most vulnerable to. For example, if you live in California, earthquakes are more likely to occur than if you live in Maine. For each emergency you come up with, consider which of your business' operations may be impacted. Of those operations, you must institute a backup plan for any that are crucial to your business' success.

Institute a written plan.

The backup plans that you put in place with this core group will be of little help if an emergency strikes and you or those key employees are unable to get to work to share them with everyone else. Once you determine how you'll perform key functions, put it down on paper and electronically where any employee can get to it.

Cross-train employees.

In a disaster situation, particularly one that affects many people on a large scale, some of your employees will likely be unable to get to work. In that case, who will pick up the slack? If there is someone on your staff who has duties that no one else knows how to perform, take the time now to cross-train employees so that someone else can get the job done if an emergency prevents that employee from coming to work.

Distribute emergency numbers.

Employees should know beforehand how to reach you and other key employees if an emergency keeps them from coming into work, or if something happens while they're on the job. That includes setting up a number or hotline that employees can call if a disaster strikes where they can get instructions on how to proceed. This also means making sure you have an updated list of employee numbers, as well as a way to reach their personal emergency contacts.

Have a remote backup plan.

What happens if a disaster makes your workplace physically uninhabitable? To prepare for such an occurrence, have information that's relevant to your business stored off-site where key employees can access it and keep performing the business' most important tasks. You can do this by allowing certain employees to perform key functions from home, or making an agreement with another business to use certain equipment if your business becomes inoperable.

The key to making sure your business runs effectively in an emergency or disaster situation is planning and preparation. By taking the time to prepare your employees now, you'll be able to get back on your feet faster should the unthinkable occur.

Read next: Keep Communications Open at Your Business During a Disaster

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