Submitted by the San Juan County Economic Development Council
As storm season approaches, now’s the time to think about disaster preparedness for your business. In the islands, we are at risk for earthquakes, large winter storms, fires and other disasters—both natural and man-made.
Though disasters are rare, the risk to your business’ existence is high; and the risk of fire or flood, a lawsuit, sudden illness of key personnel, or hacking is even higher. Disaster planning can help prepare you for community-scale and individual-scale disasters.
Whether you are rebuilding after your building gets destroyed or gathering information to defend yourself against a lawsuit, you will be better off if you can access your records easily. Rebuilding your business will be much more difficult if your files are trapped behind an inaccessible computer or burned to ash.
There are strategies for managing data so that it is accessible, findable and secure. We recommend finding a method that makes sense for you and your business.
You may not have considered whether both yourself and your employees are personally prepared for disasters. No one is going to take care of their employer’s business before taking care of their own family.
Incorporating personal preparedness for your employees into your business’ disaster planning will help your employees, you, and your business recover sooner.
You should also consider how your customers and suppliers will be affected. If there is a major travel disruption and your guests can’t get home, will you be able to offer help to ensure they have food and a place to stay? If you are a freelancer working remotely, what will you do in a power or internet outage?
As a client of other businesses, you might also need to be prepared if one of your suppliers suffers a blow that knocks them down for a while. Having plans for such possibilities will keep your customers and suppliers happy.
One last consideration is that in the event of a community-scale disaster, you may be in a position to help others if you have prepared your business and can be a vendor for government agencies coming in to help cleanup and rebuild. Taking a few steps now may put you in a position to supply construction/demolition, accommodations, or food services during recovery. Washington Procurement Technical Assistance Center can help you navigate working with the government.
Our goal is to convince you that disaster planning should go beyond following seismic and fire codes or storing canned goods. Disaster planning is useful for both major events and small-scale disasters.
We focused on businesses in this article, but disaster preparedness at all levels fosters economic resilience.
There are many excellent resources to help you plan. The county Department of Emergency Management and the State Emergency Management Division have worked hard to create accessible and simple tools for disaster planning.
You could also check out a new disaster planning guide for communities and businesses by Maury Forman, former senior manager for the Washington Department of Commerce, which emphasizes the importance of disaster planning for economic development. To learn more, visit http://mauryforum.com/.
Disaster planning will help you and your business be resilient in the face of many types of challenges you might face.