Own a business?

As published in the Lowell Sun
By Linda Kelly

Hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes, oh my! Living in New England has certainly produced new disaster recovery challenges for us this year. Although we cannot prepare for every possible event, there are steps you can take to better prepare for many business interruptions. Having a plan can make the difference between recovering from events and going out of business. Develop a business continuity/disaster preparedness plan. Include in this plan:

Evacuation Plan

The major concern in an emergency is for the health and safety of customers and employees. All smoke and carbon-monoxide alarms should be in working order. Exit routes and a pre-established meeting place outside the business should be known. Plan for individuals with disabilities.

Communication plan

This is how you will communicate with employees and customers before, during, and after a disaster. Obtain home phone numbers, cell phone or other family emergency phone numbers. Establish an emergency phone line where employees can get emergency updates. Communicate with your customers through social-media pages, business websites, telephone-recorded messages or radio. Be sure to keep backup copies of this information in multiple locations, and include print copies as well.

Events, hazards and threats analysis.

Complete an analysis of all the potential events that could impact your business. These threats could be natural disasters such as: hurricanes, earthquakes or severe winter storms. They could be technical disruptions: loss of hardware, software or phone lines. Other threats to consider include: computer breaches or viruses, acts of violence, fire, chemical hazards and supply-chain disruptions. Look at the likelihood of each event, the impact to your business, both financial and reputational, and risk rate from high to low. You will not be able to plan for every event, but there are preparations you can make to minimize the impact to your business.

Alternate location.

Establish an alternate location for your business should your primary location be inaccessible. There are recovery vendors that may assist in this process or you can consider establishing a reciprocal arrangement with a neighboring business. Be sure all information is backed up regularly and stored at an alternate location.

Identify all business functions.

List all your business functions and determine how quickly they need to be restored, i.e. identify them as: critical, necessary or incidental. This will help you to focus on getting your most critical business processes operational first. What are your alternative delivery/processing methods for each business function? You may be able to perform some functions manually for a period of time, while others may have no manual backup.

Insurance coverage.

A review your coverage to make sure you are protected for the events that would have the greatest impact to your business. Inadequate insurance coverage can lead to significant financial loss if your business is damaged, destroyed or interrupted for a period of time.

Emergency kits.

Include flashlights, batteries, first-aid kits, radio, dust masks, plastic gloves, wrench, pliers, duct tape, plastic sheeting, garbage bags, and water. Depending on the nature of the disaster, you may need to stay at your business, and you may not be able evacuate.

Planning before disruptions occur.

Listen to weather advisories and take precautions specific to the event. Backup your computer files and sends most current updates to an off-site location. Update your communications plan and review it with staff.

Other sources of information.

Learn about the emergency plans that have been established in your area by state and local governments.

Not every event will be a disaster, but many can still have serious impact to the survival of your business. Continually update your plan and train your staff. Practice recovery strategies and you may be able to minimize the effect to your business.

Linda Kelly is vice president/operational risk analyst at Enterprise Bank in Lowell. She can be reached at 978-656-5673 or via email at linda.kelly@ebtc.com

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