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Emergency Planning for Small Businesses

Business Insurance

By Samantha Lemna | October 5, 2017

It’s incredibly important that small business owners have plans in place in response to emergency situations. From major physical events such as fire and flooding to more sensitive client-based problems such as the loss of pertinent data, small businesses need to protect themselves. Talking to an insurance broker can help you choose the best policies for your business and understand your coverage but having adequate insurance coverage isn’t all you can do. Here are a few things small business owners may want to keep in mind when it comes to emergency planning:

Planning for Catastrophes

Having a strategy in place to deal with emergency situations is imperative. In Alberta, tornadoes, fires and floods are all physical disasters that businesses need to be prepared to respond to. You should also be prepared for more localized emergencies such as a gas leak or an employee or customer having a medical emergency. Getting your cybersecurity in order and preparing for ransomware or data breaches is also an excellent idea. In any case, your company needs to have a response plan for each scenario. There are a number of factors you want to consider and have as a part of your emergency strategy:

  • Order of Operations – outline what needs to be done and assign roles to your employees.
  • Shelter or Shelter-in-Place – choose a location that is the safest place for your employees to shelter-in-place. There should be no windows. This is also where you should keep your emergency kit.
  • Evacuation Route – plot evacuation routes outside of your building to a muster point.
  • Emergency Contacts – have a list of contacts that need to be informed in the event of a disaster including employees and their loved ones.
  • Damage Contingency – if the catastrophe is data-related you should have a plan to limit the extent of damage and contain the breach.

Your strategy may also include evacuation of customers or time permitting materials or protection of assets or data. Every company’s plan will vary.

Don’t forget your post-emergency plan including:

  • Damage assessment
  • Protection of undamaged property (or securing the property or data)
  • Salvaging
  • Clean up

You may also need a media and legal response plan.

Having a strategy will help – but don’t forget to wait for your insurance company’s adjuster to give the go-ahead before any physical clean up is attempted. You should also remember to document as much of the physical damage or loss with photographs and video as you can.

Prepare for Catastrophes

  • Inventory – have a list of inventory readily available including everything your company owns. Pictures and videos are a great asset. This will help your insurance company should you have to make a plan.
  • Emergency + First Aid Equipment – ensure you have the appropriate first aid and emergency equipment such as fire alarms, CO detectors, sprinklers, first aid kit, fire extinguisher and anything else. This is especially important if you have dangerous chemicals. Make sure these systems are checked regularly.
  • Emergency + First Aid Training – always a good skill to have you may want specific training depending on your location and industry.
  • Practice – don’t let the first time you have to evacuate or execute your disaster strategy be the real deal. Practising will help your employees become familiar with evacuating and the whole catastrophe response procedure.
  • Keep a Visitor Log
  • Damage mitigation – you can mitigate damage from wind, water and fire depending on the design and materials housing your business. You may want to look into strategies to reduce physical damage. You can also employ many different cyber security methods to protect your clients and company data.

Temporary Location

If your office or building structure is damaged and uninhabitable you need to have a place to set up shop at least temporarily. This may not be the very next day or even a few days following the event but you definitely want to have an option available so that you can get your business up and running again as soon as it is feasible to do so.

This is also why you may want to look into getting business interruption insurance. As its name suggests this type of policy will help cover lost earnings as a result of some event such as a fire that prohibits you from doing business for a period of time. Additionally, this type of coverage can help you with some of the costs incurred as a result of having to temporarily relocate or rent equipment. As a small business owner, you can’t afford to lose that money that you would otherwise have coming in.

Backing Up all Data

From important client data to office files to any sort of electronic documents that may be significant to your business you absolutely want to make sure that everything that possibly can be is backed up. Part of the reason that cloud-based services are so incredibly popular is that they protect vital business information. While hard copies may be lost or office electronics inaccessible if you have cloud-based storage for the bulk of your pertinent data you will be in a much better position than you would be without some means of information backup.

Make Sure You’re Covered

Beyond business interruption insurance you also want to make certain that you have adequate property insurance to cover the loss. From coverage on the building to the items and equipment contained within in the event of an emergency having the right type of insurance coverage and an adequate amount of coverage becomes crucial. If you’re not sure about exactly what you need your best bet is to talk to an experienced insurance broker about your small business needs.

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