Emergencies Aren’t Biased
Small companies can fall victim to a dangerous mindset of thinking they are too small to take formal precautions against crises. They believe that fancy emergency notification systems are relegated to the companies with thousands of employees scattered around the globe. While the magnitude of the emergency may scale with the size of the company, even the smallest mom and pop company needs a plan and a system to communicate when an unexpected event occurs.
The truth is, emergencies can happen anywhere, anytime, to anyone. All we have to do is look at the crazy hurricane season we will thankfully see coming to an end in the coming weeks. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate paid no attention to whether or not the buildings they destroyed were owned by a large or small company. They didn’t care if four employees were displaced or 4,000. It was of no concern as to which streets would be impassable and how long the power would be out.
- 40% of small businesses never recover from a disaster – FEMA
- 8% of small business owners consider the environment a top factor – CNBC
- 2% of small business owners view cyber attacks as their most critical issue – CNBC
Are you as prepared as you could be? If you’re using emails and phone calls to inform employees of what they’re supposed to do before, during, and after an event, you’re likely missing quite a few people while also wasting valuable time and effort. These factors alone increase the risk of people getting hurt and your business taking longer to recover, if ever at all.
5 Steps to a Solid Disaster Plan for Businesses of All Sizes
While not every disaster plan can prevent a crisis, it does go a long way to help companies of all sizes recover when an emergency does strike. According to CNBC, there are a few things to consider when developing a plan:
1. Keep company records in the cloud
When seconds count, saving lives is more critical than saving data, although long-term, retrieving customer and company data is a boon to company survival. By keeping the most important data in the cloud, companies can be assured all of their information is safe, despite environmental circumstances.
2. Establish policies for employees, vendors, and customers
It’s easy to focus on rebuilding after a disaster, but employees, suppliers, and customers will only be patient for so long. They will expect communications, services, and product deliveries to resume within a reasonable amount of time or they will go to a competitor. Develop a separate communications plan for each affected party, giving them details of how and when business will continue, what they can expect, and ways for them to stay in touch. Homeland Security recommends companies have a pre-scripted message for each group, something that is easy to do with an automated mass communication system.
3. Develop a continuity plan
The key to getting on your feet quickly after an emergency event is to understand which operations are essential and who will carry them out, with backups in line. Everyone on payroll should know what is expected of them before, during, and after an emergency. Be sure they are trained, and require regular practice drills simulating the most probable emergencies.
4. Do a threat analysis
Speaking of most probable emergencies, do you know what your biggest threats may be? You can’t predict them all, but you can estimate which ones are most likely by looking at the past and considering your environment. These threats may change with different locations. What are the hazards at each location? From terrorism to cyber attacks, weather-related events to downed servers, consider them all and be sure your emergency response plan has instructions for each.
5. Run drills
We can’t say this enough: practice, practice, practice. A plan is only a plan until it is rehearsed, tweaked, and understood. If the plan sits on a computer, in a file somewhere in an old file cabinet, or is mentioned briefly once a year, it’s not going to help much in an actual emergency. It must be practiced until perfected. Be sure every employee, onsite or remote, understands and walks through each step of the plan on a regular basis. Every new hire should be given the plan, personal instructions, and time to practice his or her role in the specific emergency.
Communications Isn’t Just for Emergencies
For small companies, investing in an automated emergency response system may seem out of reach. While companies of all sizes can experience cyber attacks, weather-related emergencies, fires, downed servers and workplace violence, these instances aren’t likely to occur nearly as frequently as internal events that require employees to be on the same page.
Companies can extend the value of their notification system to include non-emergency messages, such as payroll delays or company-wide bonuses, changes in hours of operations, shift changes, upcoming corporate events, volunteer opportunities, directions or changes in directions to a venue, weather-related or traffic information, and so on.
The system does not have to be used solely for emergencies. Think of it as a streamlined, simple communications tool that can make communicating with employees and even people outside of your organization much easier and faster. Companies can not only pre-build messages, customize messages per audience, time messages to be delivered on a schedule, and send messages across multiple communication channels per audience or simultaneously, but each message can be tracked to monitor open rates and engagement.
Act Like You’ve Been There
No matter the size of your company, with an automated mass communication system, you can show your employees, vendors, and customers you know what you’re doing and have their backs in case of an emergency. You may be small in numbers, but there’s no reason to act like you’re small when it comes to protecting your people.
Give your employees peace of mind they will never be left without information when an emergency arises (and it will, at some point). Help build your customers’ trust with a system to keep them informed when the worst case scenario plays out. Boost the confidence of your vendors by demonstrating big-company thinking when you’re getting your feet back onto the ground after a crisis.
An automated notification system shows the world you’re ready to overcome when those threats become reality. It will make your job much easier and give you assurance all of your bases are covered and all of your people are informed.