Preparing For Disasters

Flood. Fire. Earthquake. Accidentally deleted computer file? These are big-and small-disasters that can stop a business in its tracks, or at least cause some headaches and frustration. It pays for businesses to prepare for calamity, as some of you may have recently discovered as the effects of a hurricane reaped havoc in parts of the Commonwealth. Overcoming even the small problems that seem inconsequential can help you prepare for the big ones that seem overwhelming.

An employer that experienced the tragedy of the attack on the World Trade Center said businesses don't have to jump straight into preparing for earthquakes and terrorist attacks. By addressing the small, day-to-day problems, businesses work their way into readiness for larger issues.

"There are things that happen with high frequency and low severity, vs. low frequency and high severity (events)," Donna Childs said. "Prepare for what is most likely to happen, and move forward. You get an immediate benefit against the more likely threat at a reasonable cost, and you build toward preparedness for tragedy."

Childs recommended businesses start with the smallest problems first and work their way up. For example:

Track daily human errors and problems. This will point out deficiencies in training and skills. Is an employee saving files incorrectly and losing them? Retrain this person before he or she loses your company mailing list.

Review your equipment. Look at your warranties and service agreements. Is everyone trained on how to use your equipment? Can you build in some redundancy if a critical piece fails?

Check up on your service providers. Make sure you have contact information for the customer service departments for your telephone, cable and Internet providers and other essential vendors. Do they guarantee service? Can you find alternative or backup suppliers if a service provider fails?

Evaluate your risk of environmental hazards. Are the plumbing and electrical systems in your building up-to-date and well maintained? Failures here will cause long periods of disruption. You'll have to be prepared to protect your workers from hazards if they work in those conditions.

Prepare for fires and other disasters that can displace or destroy. While most companies don't have the finances to be able to lease two offices-one to work in and another to use only in case of emergency-businesses can set up a buddy system. Set up an agreement with other small businesses that each can use the other's facilities, for a short time, if a disaster strikes. Keep spare computer equipment and copies of vital files at your buddy's office, and set up shop in the conference room if necessary.

Have a notification plan. If not already in place, develop a plan to notify employees in the event your business must close due to a natural disaster.

SESCO Management Consultants is available to assist with your human resource issues. You may contact us by phone at 423-764-4127 or by email at sesco@sescomgt.com.