Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and snowstorms can wreak havoc on communities and businesses, knocking out power sources and the ability to communicate through phones and email.
While some owners might prefer not to think about these kinds of natural disasters, having a small business safety plan is vital. Power losses due to storms or other emergencies can put you (and your data) at risk. Preparing for emergencies now will help safeguard your assets, allow the company to function (at least partially) during an event and let you get back to normal operations as soon as possible — preventing you from having to close your business for good.
Establish an Emergency Plan in Anticipation
If your business were struck by a flood or covered with four feet of snow tomorrow, would you know how to protect your computers, your network, your data? Who would you call? What would your employees do?
Every small business owner should create a step-by-step list of things she should do when faced with an emergency situation. Start by considering what types of disasters you might face. While flooding and fire can happen anywhere, some threats, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, vary by region. Create a separate protocol for each contingency: one for major flooding, another for a simple power outage and another for a hurricane.
You and your employees should know how to turn off the gas, electricity and other utilities in your office. Once you are free from danger, you should have a list of people you will contact as soon as possible, including your insurance agent, any key employees and your data backup service. Staying in contact will let you coordinate the process of recovery and getting back to work.
Identify Essential Emergency Equipment for the Company
Writing your emergency plan will help you make decisions during the first critical minutes and hours of an emergency. Doing so will also help you to decide what kind of emergency equipment you will need to have on hand, both to prevent loss of your critical assets as well as to protect you and your employees from harm.
Practice Small Business Safety Through Asset Protection
Today, the most valuable asset of any business is often its data, the information created, stored and shared across your network. The small business must have the tools that will keep its data safe, no matter what the emergency.
- Data backup: When the power goes out in your business, you are in danger of losing critical business data. For this reason, data duplication is a necessity, and there are several tools you can use for this task. To start, back up your hard drives with additional drives or data storage systems. Many companies with large networks will also want backup servers that can continue to distribute data during or after an emergency.
Of course, if your business is hit by a tornado or another force of nature, these backup solutions may be damaged as well. Thus, if possible, data backup should occur off-site, whether in one of your own servers or through the services of a data backup company. Data may also be saved to the cloud, for virtual backup.
- Power backup: Should your power fail, data can be corrupted or destroyed, and therefore it is necessary to prevent sudden power surges or failures in your computers and servers. To start, each computer station must be equipped with surge protectors to prevent electrical overloads.
The use of uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) will keep electricity flowing to your hardware during the first critical minutes or hours of a power outage. The UPS is placed between your computer and the wall socket, much like a surge protector, and automatically supplies power to the PC when the lights go off. Although the UPS will only supply electricity for a few minutes or a few hours (depending on the model), this can be long enough to get other power sources running.
Ensure Proper Personal Protection
When that big thunderstorm or earthquake hits, you will also need to have on hand the tools that will help keep you and your employees safe. These are the emergency supplies every small business should have on hand:
- Flashlights and extra batteries
- First aid kits
- Fire extinguishers
- Portable tool sets, including wrenches to turn off natural gas lines
- Bottled water and nonperishable food for your employees
- Safety gloves and supplies such as caution tape, high visibility safety vests and traffic cones
- Rain gear
- Battery powered weather radios and two way radios for staying in communication should phone service be interrupted
We may wish for a world without natural disasters, but at some point most of us will come face to face with a bad storm or earthquake. Preparing now will allow you to respond to emergencies quickly, calmly and effectively.