Montana. Texas. Florida. Puerto Rico. California.
Unfortunately, the last few months have been terribly difficult for millions of people in the United States besieged by natural disasters. In the midst of losing their homes, many of these Americans have also faced loss, damage, or other hardship in the way of their businesses.
According to former Joint Task Force Katrina Commander Russel Honore, “40% of small businesses don’t survive these events because the grid doesn’t come up, they don’t have the workers, and the people that they used to work for are not open.”
With this in mind, we think it’s important to take a look at what disaster recovery for small businesses should look like. Here are eight tips that can help you keep your small business as protected as possible from these events.
Tips For Disaster Recovery
First and foremost, small businesses need to think about how they will respond to disasters—natural or man-made—before the events occur. Here are things they should consider:
- See where your company is vulnerable. Assess your small business to see how disasters and extreme weather could affect it.
- Create an emergency plan in the event a disaster occurs. According to Cox Business, 56% of small business owners don’t have an emergency preparedness plan. That statistic should alarm you—and urge you into action to create a plan to minimize impacts. Your plan should outline how your company will respond to a disaster by answering questions including: How will we keep filling and tracking orders? If vendors aren’t operating, do we have a backup? What if employees can’t make it to work?
- Know how to keep your employees safe and your buildings secure during a disaster. Most likely, you will have time to alert your employees and allow them to go home, but you should plan for the event that an event occurs that does not allow them to leave the workplace. How will your company keep them safe and secure (and hopefully comfortable) in the event that they are stuck in the office for hours, or even days, at a time? Additionally, you should assess your workplace and see what you can do to secure it to the extent that you are able. This includes assessing your insurance coverages and adjusting them as necessary.
- Secure your data and sensitive information. Being a victim of a natural disaster doesn’t lessen your small business’ responsibility for keeping data and sensitive information safe and secured. Hard-copy files should be kept locked and inaccessible to the public; computer data should also be stored and secured in a way to protect any sensitive information.
- Get disaster assistance from the Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA is offering disaster assistance for victims of natural disasters. Check out their website for more information on how you may be eligible.
- Make sure you know how you’ll pay your employees during and after a crisis. This article from Inc. was spot on:
Don’t be caught off-guard by the labor laws surrounding work during a crisis. For your nonexempt employees (generally, hourly workers) you need only pay them for hours worked. Be prepared to pay some of them overtime as they take on extra tasks to recover from the hurricane or work extra hours to make up for employees who can’t come in.
When it comes to exempt employees (generally, those who draw a regular salary), you must pay them for an entire week if they work any part of that week, even if your business is closed due to the hurricane. You can withhold pay only if you are closed for an entire week and your exempt employees do no work at all from home or any other location. However, you may be able to designate time paid for when employees didn’t work as paid time off.
- Figure out who’s going to answer your calls while your business is interrupted. If your small business depends on customer phone calls (either through sales or customer support), then you need to make sure you have a plan in place in case your business phone lines are interrupted.
- Communicate. Communicate with your employees, your customers, your insurance agents, and the general public (if it makes sense) to let them know how you’re handling the event before, during, and after it happens. Internally, make sure you have a consistent message from the top down; with customers, be sure to acknowledge any frustration that may occur due to your absence, but don’t risk your employees’ (or your own) well-being in order to fulfill a wish of a client that is not completely necessary.
To learn more about small businesses and disaster recovery, check out the following articles articles: