A natural disaster can rear its head at any time.
The damage and devastation caused by natural disasters can present many challenges for businesses of all types and sizes. Being sufficiently prepared can help avoid some of the potential issues a natural disaster can cause — and speed up your business’s recovery.
Preparing for Natural Disasters
To help ensure your business is adequately prepared , check out the following 21-point checklist for preparing for natural disasters.
Identify a First-Aid Team
One of the main priorities if a natural disaster occurs is to help keep employees and customers safe.
According to the American Red Cross , approximately 10 to 15 percent of your employees should be trained in first aid and CPR. Part of a comprehensive natural disaster preparation plan should include ensuring employees have this training and are prepared to assist others should an emergency arise.
Have Necessary Safety Equipment at the Ready
From fire extinguishers to first aid kits and smoke detectors, every business should budget for and purchase vital safety equipment. Also, employees should be trained on how to use the equipment in an emergency.
Have Sufficient Evacuation Routes
Does your facility have evacuation routes to take employees to safe locations in the event of an emergency? Does your staff know about these routes and how they can access them? Now’s the time to ensure your staff is familiar with these escape routes — and even how to help customers use them if necessary — should an actual emergency occur.
Consider Employees with Special Needs
When installing emergency routes out of business premises, make sure to consider employees with special needs, disabilities, and medical conditions.
Be Sure Your Business Has Adequate Insurance
As Score advises in its Winter Weather Preparedness Checklist  for businesses, before a storm arrives and causes damage to your business, make sure you have insurance in place that provides coverage against winter hazards.
Make Sure Your Insurance Includes Coverage for Flood Damage
If disaster strikes, failing to have the right insurance can cripple a business. Now’s the time to be sure you understand what is covered by your policy. It’s also important to remember that many policies don’t cover flood damage, so it might be good to consider adding flood insurance.
Flood-Proof Your Building
And speaking of flood damage, with heavy rain, floods can pose a real threat to commercial property during the winter months. As Score also advises in its Flood Preparedness Checklist , businesses should have plugs at the ready and use them in the wake of flooding to help prevent floodwater from backing up into sewer drains. Flood vents or flood proof barriers should ideally be installed to help protect a building from flooding.
Have Supplies at the Ready to Remove Snow and Ice
Score also recommends that snow and ice removal supplies be at the ready during the winter, such as rock salt, sand and snow shovels. That way, if a snow emergency  were to occur during working hours, at least employees would be sufficiently able to leave.
Write an Emergency Contact List and Keep It Current
In its Small Business Disaster Preparedness paper , the U.S. Chamber Foundation notes the vital part communication plays if a natural disaster strikes. Businesses should create a communications strategy that includes an emergency contact list with every possible means to reach people associated with the business, including employees, suppliers, and customers.
Train Employees on Communication Strategies
Disaster communication strategies should be updated regularly, and employees should be trained on them.
Have a Backup Generator on Site
Part of a natural disaster emergency plan should include having a backup generator on your premises. This way, even if the power is cut due to severe weather, you’ll still have access to power.
Have a ‘Plan B’ Location
If your business’ location is snowed in and employees are unable to reach it, it would be a good idea to have an alternative location ready so you can keep operating.
Identify and Prioritize Your Business’s Most Important Processes
Part of a comprehensive natural disaster preparedness checklist should include identifying and prioritizing your business’s most important operations and processes.
Decide Who’s in Charge?
Your plan should also include identifying who will oversee what should an emergency occur. It is important employees know the chain of command during an emergency so they know who to contact.
Keep Online Continuity with Cloud Hosting
Losing vital data such as client and employee information can be irreversibly damaging for a small business. Fires and other natural disasters can wipe out data stored on premises and prevent a business from operating. Maintain online continuity and ensure data is kept safe by storing information in the cloud.
Review and Prepare Your Supply Chain
Just in case your primary supplier is not available in the event of a disaster, it would be a good idea to have built up a professional relationship with alternative vendors. As the Small Business Administration advises , it’s a good idea to place occasional orders with alternative suppliers, so they view you as an active customer.
Determine Whether Different Departments Will Require Different Procedures
Part of your business continuity plan should include evaluating whether different departments and teams within the workplace require different procedures if an emergency occurred.
Include a System to Warn Employees About Emergencies
When conducting a plan on how to respond in emergencies, be sure it includes a system for warning employees about emergencies and how to communicate with local emergency management officials.
Have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
The U.S. Chamber Foundation also advises  having an Employee Assistance Program in place. It will help your employees deal with the aftermath of a natural disaster and help return your business to full productivity.
Keep It Simple
As the U.S. Chamber Foundation highlights in its Top 10 Preparedness Tips , a business disaster plan should be kept simple. It should be easy to understand and implement.
Test and Update Your Plan — Regularly
And finally, your simple to implement and comprehensive plan to help minimize the damage and disruption natural disasters can have on your business should be tested and updated at least once a year.
For more details on how to sufficiently prepare your business for the potential disruptions of a natural disaster, check out these disaster preparedness  resources from Constellation.
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