Preparing for disasters is just as important for business as individuals, as many families’ livelihoods can depend on a business keeping its doors open. Business continuity planning often focuses on IT and data preservation for good reason, but think through all aspects with some of the many resources available online and through emergency management offices in your state.
Every business should go through planning steps to be prepared. Investing effort into a preparedness program can save time and money in the long run. But once a plan is in place, don’t forget to test it. Testing identifies crucial gaps in planning as well as determining what just doesn’t work. Because – let’s face it – it’s easier to fix problems and make improvements without a hurricane bearing down on you.
Items one should potentially keep in mind while planning:
- Does everyone have everyone else’s contact information?
- What if people can’t get to the office? Can people work from home in certain instances?
- Are certain people responsible for securing equipment or doing particular tasks? Do they know it’s their responsibility?
- Have you done a site search on things that could damage your business or infrastructure (e.g. are tree branches away from the roof and power lines)?
- Are there supplies available to board up windows or keep water from breaching the structure(s)?
- Does it make sense to have agreements in place with other companies in order to help your business out if assistance is needed? Power companies come to one another’s aid when damage is extensive. Do you have companies you would rely on to help you get back on your feet?
While some environmental planning requirements may touch on natural hazards (e.g. SPCC), best practices can go beyond legal requirements. For instance, EPA has begun to provide guidance on considering climate change in remedial design. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection – Site Remediation Program will shortly be releasing a new guidance document titled Planning for and Response to Catastrophic Events at Contaminated Sites. This guidance (which includes content written and developed by Brownfield Science and Technology’s Nicholas Santella) discusses planning to increase the resilience of operations at remediation sites in the face of catastrophic events.
Finally, businesses should encourage their employees to make a plan. Employees should plan on having items that address their specific needs, such as medications or other personal requirements. Going through the process of planning helps people to decide what they need to have with them if they are required to evacuate, as well as if they needed to shelter-in-place. Planning also serves a dual purpose when employees discuss with their families what supplies are needed at home and what needs to be taken to work to prepare for being cut-off from daily services.
For more resources on planning for a hurricane, visit NOAA online:
Rochelle Brittingham PhD, MPA is an expert in emergency management with a focus on planning for the needs of people with disabilities or access and functional needs during disasters. She has over 10 years of experience in social work, grant writing and community outreach. Currently, she is employed at the University of Delaware Center for Disabilities Studies. She is also a Delaware Community Emergency Response Team instructor.