In 2004, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced the first National Preparedness Month. Since then, the event has been celebrated in the United States every year in September with the goal of encouraging Americans to prepare their families, schools, businesses, and homes for a variety of events that might cause serious damage.
If you’ve never heard of National Preparedness Month, don’t worry. It’s not too late to check out the resources offered by FEMA and others or to use the “holiday” as an excuse to get your business ready for worst-case scenarios. Think of this month like spring cleaning: there’s no real reason we have to prepare for disasters in September, but designating a spot on the calendar for preparation makes it harder to forget.
What Does “Preparedness” Mean?
In order to prepare your business for disaster, you have to take the time to determine which disasters are most likely to happen. On ready.gov/business, FEMA recommends considering how you’d deal with…
- Illness epidemics (think H1N1).
- Acts of violence or terrorism.
- System malfunctions.
- Software malfunctions.
- Power outages.
- Data breaches.
If you don’t already have a disaster plan in place, now is the time to put one together. Sound overwhelming? Remember that the important thing is not to have every single detail accounted for, but to have a strategy in place for the following big-picture items:
- How you’ll contact employees, clients, or suppliers if you have to close down.
- How you’ll replace broken equipment or repair office damages after a storm.
- How you’ll bring in revenue if you’re forced to close your doors (e.g., through Business Interruption Insurance).
- How you’ll respond if someone or something threatens the safety of you, your employees, or your customers.
Getting a Plan in Place
FEMA’s site is the best place to start for a comprehensive guide to assessing your risks, developing a plan, testing the plan, and making changes within your business to ensure you’re ready to emerge strong after disasters.
Keep in mind, too, that disaster preparedness complements the protection offered by business insurance. When something goes wrong in your business and you have to make a claim on a General Liability or Commercial Property Insurance policy, the claims process tends to be smoother when you have a disaster preparedness plan in place.
Why? Because part of planning involves taking careful stock of what you have and what you’d need to replace or repair. With records of every piece of equipment, for example, submitting a claim of property damage becomes much more efficient.
So if you haven’t yet taken a look at FEMA’s National Preparedness Month resources, do it today. And start planning ways to protect your business.