Saturday, April 19, 2008

Develop Your Emergency Plan, Part IV

So, now we finally get to the point where we discuss creating a full crisis management plan. While it might sound simple, in reality there are numerous issues to contend with.

Start by reviewing how your company functions. Review a complete work order flow chart to pinpoint the critical operations in your business. Make the necessary plans to contend with worst-case scenarios involving these aspects of your company.

Know ahead of time how you will replace damaged or destroyed equipment either through new purchases or leases. Put all the documents, along with relevant contact information from these providers, in a safe place (perhaps with your binder from Part I of this series).

Identify all the other companies you do business with (suppliers, shippers, etc.) on a daily basis. Communicate with them about their policies regarding crisis management. Will they still be able to serve you during troubled times? If not, make contingency plans to transfer the load to alternate suppliers. Keep contact information for all of these people with your other emergency data.

Make plans for what you will do if your office space or warehouse is destroyed. If your physical location is gone or inaccessible, you will need other arrangements. Can you run the business from another location? Can it run from your home? Maybe several homes? If not, then develop relationships with other companies where you both agree to share space during a disaster. Meet with local businesses in your building or area to coordinate crisis planning.

Make plans for payroll! No matter what, your employees will need to get paid.

Sounds like alot? Well, it has only just begun. Make sure you identify key personnel at all levels of your business and get them involved with this planning. Don't just tap senior level managers, but gather a wide cross section of your employees. They will identify aspects of your business that will require crisis support. Listen to them and take all appropriate steps. Business continuity is critical to success.

Now, assign all necessary roles in your crisis management plan. Don't take it all on yourself. Delegate as much as possible. Double up personnel on mission critical elements of your business. Provide the proper training to your crisis personnel based on their crisis recovery missions.
Communicate crisis management plans with your employees. Tell them what is expected from them during a disaster. Provide them with wallet cards with important phone numbers and crisis response information.

Now, talk to first responders, community crisis teams and utility companies about their crisis responses and how to best coordinate your efforts. Discuss any questionable parts of your plans with local police, fire and government agencies to determine legal or compliance issues. Now, document everything! Write it out and them print it. Take the hard copy and put it into your emergency plan binder.

Run a full scale drill of your crisis management plan. I recommend that you run it on a weekend to minimize the impact to the work day, then invite everyone to attend a barbecue at a local park to celebrate. The drill will show you all the failure points in your original plan and allow you to make adjustments.

Finally, make sure you have several copies of your crisis management manuals available off-site. Every January, you should take it out and review your plan, making changes as needed. Failing to plan is planning for failure. Generally, I hate clich├ęs but this one was too appropriate. Make sure you take the time to develop an emergency plan. It may seem to be a big job (and it is) but you don't want to be caught needing one. In the aftermath of a natural disaster or a terrorist attack, you will have so many other concerns, it will be nice knowing that your business is taken care of.


If you would like some help developing your disaster recovery plans, contact us. Since we're from Florida, we know all about disasters.

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