Every business owner should have a plan in place just in case the unthinkable emergency or disaster happens. It’s often difficult for small business owners – some of the busiest people in America – to look beyond the most pressing, immediate business concerns.  But an “ounce of prevention” today could mean the difference in whether a business is able to survive a disaster and quickly return to regular operations.

Contact your local SBDC to help you develop a plan specifically tailored for your business. Below are some questions to take into consideration when creating your business disruption/continuity plan.

For additional guidance, view our list of disaster preparedness online tutorials and list of business disruption resource links.

Why do I need a business continuity plan?

The lack of a business continuity plan could lead to severe losses and a possible financial collapse. According to the Institute for Business and Home Safety, an estimated 25 percent[1] of businesses do not reopen following a major disaster.

What should I prepare for?

Fire, flood, cyber attack, storms, war, utility outage, injury, or theft could cause a breakdown of your critical systems or your suppliers’ critical systems. This can have an adverse effect on your business.

What does a business continuity plan include?

The goal of the business continuity plan is to specify procedures for handling sudden unexpected situations; so to

  • Prevent injuries
  • Reduce damage to buildings, equipment and merchandise, and
  • Accelerate the resumption of normal operations.

A business disruption/continuity plan should cover basic preventive, detective and curative measures.

It should include:

  • Company details (name, address and telephone numbers)
  • A description of the role and responsibility of the Emergency Response Team
  • A listing of all possible emergencies, consequences, required actions, written procedures and the resources available
  • Details of insurance policies and insurance agents
  • Particulars of current and approved alternate suppliers
  • Comprehensive records of personnel including their home telephone number, their duties and responsibilities
  • Floor plans and maps showing evacuation routes and the location of fire extinguishers, “shelter-in-place,” and assembly points
  • A list of employees/personnel trained to administer first aid
  • Address and details of the off-site recovery location

What preventive measures can I take?

  • Assign one position to monitor weather alerts
  • Keep emergency kits ready; one for each employee and visitor
  • Install site maps throughout the building
  • Keep a copy of important records (like payroll, inventory, supplier and client information in fire-proof, water-proof, portable containers) in an off-site location or backed up virtually
  • Clearly mark all exit signs, fire alarms, and  escape routes
  • Place First-Aid kits at easily accessible locations throughout the building
  • Fasten book cases and display cases to wall studs using brackets or straps
  • Place large objects that could fall and break or injure workers on lower shelves
  • Install latches to keep drawers and cabinets from opening and spilling their contents
  • Keep electrical machinery and paper records at an elevation to protect them in the event of a flood
  • Install back-up generators to be used in the event of a power outage
  • Conduct drills regularly and evaluate their success

What should an emergency kit contain?

A basic emergency kit should at least contain:

  • A three day supply of water and non-perishable food
  • A thermal blanket
  • A folding knife
  • Flash-light and extra batteries
  • Can opener
  • Maps
  • Cell phone charger
  • Disposable wipes and garbage bags

What are detective measures?

Detective measures include installation of:

  • Fire alarms
  • Warning systems (public address systems)
  •  Software to protect your computers and data

What curative measures can I adopt?

Curative measures include setting procedures for:

  • Disposal of damaged goods
  • Proper repair of all machinery and equipment
  • Pest control

Do I really need to worry about a cyber attack?

60 percent of small businesses will close within 6 months of a cyber attack.

36 percent of cyber crimes are aimed at small companies.[1]

Cyber attackers design computer programs which track the business website and steal important information. A common tactic is the “ransom-ware” scam where attackers lock all your computers and data and ask for a ransom.

How do I protect my business from a cyber attack?

Apart from educating your employees about IT risk and having strict policies regarding technology you must also:

  • Install anti-virus software on every computer
  • Control the use of non-essential applications like file sharing, instant messaging and web based games
  • Restrict the use of removable media like thumb drives, CDs and DVDs
  • Encrypt sensitive data
  • Use password protection
  • Control inbound and outbound content
  • Use password protection for all your systems
  • Keep all software and operating systems up-to-date
  • Secure access to your network

Back up all computers and store data at an offsite or cloud location. Clearly mention this location in the Emergency/Continuity Plan. List all your critical records, their current location and designated back up location.

How often should I update my business continuity plan?

The business continuity plan needs to be updated regularly, especially when there is a change in staffing or when risks and/or systems change. All employees must be trained, regularly updated and made to attend refresher courses.

Environmental Emergencies

Your business may also need to have an emergency response plan that is required by regulation and includes reporting responsibilities. Environmental emergencies involve the release (accidental, deliberate, or caused by natural disasters) or threatened release of hazardous materials, radioactive materials, or oil to the soil, water or air. Environmental emergency response responsibilities are spread across local, state, and federal agencies depending on the size and type of emergency. For more information and assistance understanding and preparing environmental emergencies requirements and emergency plans, visit our Environmental Emergencies homepage and contact your local SBDC EMAP consultant.