Be Calm When the Storm Hits: Get a Disaster Plan in Place

Kevin Pelton, CISSP
IT Shareholder

Fires, natural gas explosions, vandalism, tornadoes and power outages–there are plenty of examples of disastrous events that can interrupt (or end) your business operations. And, during an event when emotions can run high, you’ll save yourself valuable time and dollars if you have a plan in place before a disaster strikes.

Here are a few tips to keep you on the recovery track when your business goes down.

Prepare a step-by-step recovery plan. What are the most important things to do first, second and third? Contacting employees, insurance advisors and disaster recovery professionals are probably at the top. And have a one-page emergency plan for your employees with specific steps on what to do.

Track your assets. Do you have a list of tangible assets? Equipment, computers, etc.–those are the easy ones to track. You’ll also want to keep your digital assets safe so invest in a continuous backup system to protect your POS data and other records. Using cloud services to store files is an easy way to get ahold of your data when you can’t get to your place of business.

Understand how quickly you can get your business back on track. Figure out how long it will take to replace furniture, printers, equipment, etc. What’s the time frame from ordering to installation? If your business is based on invoicing clients and collecting payments, think about how you’ll continue to keep the cash flowing.

Communicate, communicate. Build a list of your key vendors, suppliers and advisors who need to be notified. Keep your employee list (with email and cell numbers) with you or use a texting service to update employees on what’s going on. Know which employees can help in some capacity on site and others that can work remotely.  Your loyal customers are also going to want to know what’s happened. Social media is helpful for instantly updating customers and friends.

Have one spokesperson. Depending on the disaster, you may find a camera crew outside of your property filming the event. Tell your employees not to talk to media and engage outside public relations help if you need to.

Home Sweet, Temporary Home. If the damage is extensive, have a plan to operate in an alternate site. Or, depending on the employee and job, ask your employees to work from home.

Tax relief might be available. In large-scale natural disasters like flooding or storms, the IRS might provide some tax relief in the form of extending tax filing deadlines or waiving the failure-to-deposit penalties for employment and excise tax deposits. If your business is located in a federally declared disaster area you might have the option of claiming disaster-related casualty losses on your federal income tax return for the year in which the incident happened, making it particularly important to keep track of clean up and renovation costs.

With a little advance planning, you can survive (or even thrive) when a disaster happens.