Hurricane LindaIf businesses learned anything from Hurricane Sandy, it’s the importance of having a business continuity plan (BCP) in place well before a hurricane hits land to be able to continue operations. This week, FEMA and NOAA are taking part in National Severe Weather Preparedness Week. Today, Preparis is focusing on the threat of a hurricane. When your area is issued a hurricane watch or warning, as a business leader, you often only have a very small amount of time in which to act quickly to protect your employees and your business. A BCP will address all the risks to continuing daily operations, but there must also be specific plans (which your employees have trained upon) in the event of a hurricane – all of which must be documented in order to improve safety levels and communication.

Here are five essential elements to consider:

1. Know Your Risks
By conducting a Business Impact Analysis (BIA), you will make a list of all your risks by reviewing historical data on how hurricanes have impacted your business, plus other organizations in your industry or region. Remember your employees and building location are not the only aspects which you need to consider, but also the threats to both internal operations and what could happen to clients and/or suppliers. After your BIA, your will create your BCP including the following elements…

2. Employee Notification
When under a hurricane watch or warning, it will be essential to communicate with your employees and a phone tree or e-mail blast won’t be enough. Your Emergency Messaging System (EMS) should send two-way notification to alert employees then allow them to respond back with a status update. Keep employee contact information up”to”date (including employee’s in-case-of-emergency contacts) to ensure all employees can receive the notifications. This same system can also be used to contact third-party contacts.

3. Documentation

Conducting a BIA as part of creating a BCP will make sure that you are planning for connectivity establishment and data recovery in the event of a hurricane. The plans for backing up data should be online for users to access and not kept in a binder on a shelf. Ensuring employees can obtain critical documents is a key part of your recovery effort, especially if the hurricane prevents you from entering your building. Along with the BCP, store employee contact information, in-case-of-emergency numbers, floor plans, evacuation routes, and a hurricane preparation checklist with specific tasks remotely using a hosted document storage.

4. Training
Define roles and responsibilities for your crisis management team by choosing suitable personnel then training them how to respond to a hurricane. Remember, individuals may need to assist their relatives during an evacuation, so employees with small children or elderly family members may not be the best leaders during a crisis. Create your emergency plan then practice it – not once, but several times, so that it becomes second nature for employees to learn how to respond and use a notification system. Activating your BCP will be a simple process of following the outlined process previously documented. Preparis has a customized hurricane toolkit available to train your team.

5. Response & Recovery
In addition to an EMS and BCP, it is also important to implement a recovery plan, because it will take time to recover from losses due to damaged/lost inventory, employees or consumers who have migrated to safer places and who may not be able to return quickly, or suppliers who are unable to fill your requests. Act quickly and create a business continuity plan before a disaster occurs – you cannot prevent a hurricane, but you can ensure that your employees and your business are as safe as possible in the event of a crisis.

Download our hurricane checklist and watch our webinar to learn how to read hurricane forecasts, weather maps and what to do in the event a hurricane is heading your way. For those businesses out there with questions, e-mail us at info@preparis.com or give us a call at 404.662.2950. Be sure to follow Preparis on Facebook and Twitter to learn more on how your business should plan to survive severe weather. #ImAForce

Marketing Manager