National Preparedness Month

Did you know September is National Preparedness Month? The timing couldn't be better considering the recent weather events like Hurricane Ike.

Here in the Northeast we don't get many hurricanes and very few tornadoes. If you live somewhere that does, you’re likely more in tune with having emergency plans made and supplies ready.

But I bet there's a number of New Englanders reading this who’ve been through an ice storm, a three-day snowstorm or a microburst that disrupts everyday life. Then add other troubles—man-made ones—that could shut down your business for a long while or for good: a computer virus, a fire or a terrorist attack.

I was just talking with a MEMIC coworker, Schelene Shevchenko, who is our resident expert in what’s called business continuity, about how everyone can relate to a disaster in some way and yet, relating to a disaster and being prepared for one are two different things.

Here’s some advice Schelene shares on how you can prepare to stay in business if disaster strikes:

  • Prioritize functions. Figure out how long you could go without each of your business’s functions, then prioritize processes in the order they must be up and running after a shutdown.
  • Get numbers and names. Gather address, telephone and emergency contact information for each employee. Also get contact information for your customers, vendors, regulators, board members and other stakeholders with whom you may need or want to communicate during an outage.
  • Create chains of command. If one of your leaders is unavailable in an emergency, who will fill their shoes?  
  • Create emergency teams. You may need several teams that exist only during a particular crisis. For example, do you need a team to restore your facility? One to order replacement equipment?
  • Establish communication strategies. During an emergency and recovery effort, determine ways to keep in touch with employees, customers, vendors and other stakeholders, keeping in mind that you might not have all of your everyday business tools at your disposal.  
  • Document how to carry out important functions and cross train. Are there functions that only one or two people perform at your organization? Document those processes so others know how to step in if that person is unavailable during a disaster.
  • Protect documents. Keep copies of vital documents (paper, electronic or both) stored off-site. 
  • Protect data. Your data is among your most important assets. Make sure your data is backed up regularly and stored off-site. Also have a recovery plan for telecommunications and computer systems.        

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