How to Prepare Your Business for a Natural Disaster: 4 Tips
Natural disasters and extreme weather can destabilize entire regions, damage homes and offices, and upend lives. Disasters disrupt business, so it is important to take the time to develop a plan to prepare for the next incidence.
Preparing for a Storm
Natural disasters serve as a warning to business owners to invest time in preventative measures. With the disruption to life that a disaster can bring, preparing your business can help mitigate financial losses and keep your company afloat.
Here are some steps you can take to protect important data as you ride out the storm to full recovery.
1. Do a Risk Assessment
First, “identify the assets you need to protect and then determine the threats and hazards that could impact those assets,” says Thomas Phelps, Laserfiche’s Chief Information Officer. Assets could include servers, computer hard drives, filing cabinets, mobile devices, books, and photos. Different industries and regions have a wide range of requirements for document backups, including the length of time and scope of archiving. Be aware of the standards as they apply to your business and plan accordingly.
Consider the type of disaster that will likely impact your business. Certain disasters, like earthquakes, are specific to geography. Other disasters could happen anywhere, for example, a fire. Create a preparation plan that addresses likely threats based on the location of your business. The
Department of Homeland Security regularly publishes resources on Ready.gov to help businesses put together a comprehensive continuity plan.
2. Have a Plan for Your Employees
It is important to have a plan in place to ensure that you can communicate with employees, especially database gatekeepers or key decision makers. Communicating this plan before disaster strikes will help in the immediate aftermath. Ensure that emergency preparation is explained to current employees and incorporated into new employee training.
Think about the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Damage to a physical space, a power outage at your business, stranded employees — you should have a plan B in any of these scenarios. It’s helpful to have a manual workaround in place in case your computer systems are damaged.
3. Make an External Communication Plan
If you work with clients and other partners, create a roadmap for contacting them in the event of a disaster. Although other businesses will be most concerned about employee wellbeing, you’ll demonstrate professionalism by being as communicative as possible during a crisis.
Phelps suggests, “a communication plan should be developed so you know when and how to contact clients and regulators.” Having a solid plan in place means that employees can focus their energy on execution, rather than getting bogged down in decision-making during a stressful time. If possible, make arrangements for a temporary headquarters in the event of a shutdowns so that operations can resume in a timely manner.
4. Back Up Your Data
Physical backups, like paper files or hard drives, are susceptible to damage during a natural disaster. Back up and encrypt your data digitally, hosting it in a location that’s far from your business headquarters. Use the same level of security for backup files as you do for original files, ensuring that encryption, password protection, and other security is mirrored.
The Department of Homeland Security suggests partnering with vendors that have the capability to detect outages at your primary site. Add a layer of cybersecurity by choosing a partner that can detect malware threats. If your business has multiple locations, another option is to store a duplicate of all of your data in another branch far from your headquarters.
Using a cloud backup is the most reliable way to ensure data safety. Virtual backups, like cloud storage, will remain safe through a disaster because they are stored remotely. These virtual backups can be accessed from anywhere that has an internet connection. Choose a reputable, established data backup company so your documents remain secure. Most cloud servers can be configured to periodically and automatically back up, so you can ensure your information stays up to date.