Too often, it’s not until after a natural disaster occurs that a business realizes the importance of emergency preparedness. In fact, according to research conducted by The Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), at least 25 percent of businesses will close after a natural disaster and never reopen. Whether it’s a hurricane, tornado, fire, flood or earthquake, a well-thought-out plan of action is the best way to remain operational after the unexpected strikes.
Being prepared requires much more than just having a well-stocked first-aid kit. The following precautionary action items are a must for minimizing the impact of a natural disaster on your business.
Have a Cloud-Based PBX System and a Backup Landline
Telecommunications are the lifeblood of most businesses. When these systems become impaired, work can come to a screeching halt. To keep in contact with customers and employees during an emergency situation, it’s smart to cover your bases with both a landline and a backup cloud-based PBX system that can be used to route calls to different phones and store voicemail messages. Such a phone system can enable you to share important messages, empower employees to work from home and preserve your customer contact records, even if you have to relocate to a new office.
Keep Your Cell Phones Charged
This seems like an obvious precautionary step, but many individuals don’t recharge their phones until the battery is nearly dead. Because natural disasters are inherently unexpected, it just makes good sense to keep your phone charged at all times. If phone lines are down, your cell phone may be your only means of communication. Keeping it charged, along with having an additional battery and a portable charger, will ensure that this extremely valuable business tool remains functional.
Make Sure Servers Are in Different Geographical Locations
Does your hosting company have all its servers under one roof? If so, your website and email are particularly vulnerable. When it comes to servers, redundancy is the best policy. Make sure that backup servers are in multiple locations to prevent your online capabilities from being taken down.
Maintain Your Passwords Online
Are your passwords written on sticky notes scattered across your desk? Would you remember to collect them all if you had to evacuate at a moment’s notice? Probably not! Take the time to store your passwords in an online database or password manager that you can access from any location.
Stock Up On Supplies
After a disaster, you may not be able to get to retail stores or receive deliveries for days, if not weeks. Do you have the supplies you need to keep your business running as usual? Now is the time to think about what you’ll need to stay functional – everything from bottled water, snacks and batteries to office supplies and postage stamps should be in your stockpile.
Develop an Emergency Action Plan
Of course, every office should have an evacuation plan if an emergency occurs during business hours. But there is much more that should be mapped out than just escape routes. Who will be responsible for communicating with employees and customers? Who needs to work with emergency response teams and insurance companies? How will you get your systems up and running again? Having the answers to these questions in an emergency action plan will give you the confidence to know that your business can seamlessly shift into disaster-response mode.
Learn more about emergency preparedness for businesses by reading The Impact on U.S. Small Business of Natural & Man-Made Disasters – a compilation of public and private sector intelligence presented by HP and SCORE: Counselors to America’s Small Business.
Does your business have an emergency plan? Share your strategies for emergency preparedness with other business owners on RingCentral’s Facebook page.
Originally published Jul 27, 2010, updated Aug 12, 2020