In Case of Emergency

Lessons to Be Learned

When it comes to virtually any disaster, you can't rely on Uncle Sam--or anyone else--to step in and fix it, as Lehrer of Leros Point to Point quickly found out.

"County and state officials were sympathetic to our woes, but they couldn't help us," Lehrer says. "By the time you fill out the applications and get the money, you're out of business."

Even when you don't have a crisis plan in place, acting quickly and decisively can make all the difference. "The longer a crisis goes on, the more damage it does and the harder it is to overcome," says Smith. "The quicker a company begins to respond to crisis, the quicker it's over and the less damage it will do."

But the most important part of surviving any kind of disaster is to make it a "rehearsed event," says Laye. Create a plan, then practice it until you have your response down cold. "If you're prepared for it, if your management team considers it a rehearsed event, then it doesn't have to be a catastrophe," explains Laye. "Getting started is tough, but the payoff is magnificent because there's no way to prevent these things. Anyone who gives that serious thought will be starting tonight."




Better Safe Than Sorry
THINK YOU'VE GOT EVERYTHING COVERED IN YOUR DISASTER PLAN? MAKE SURE WITH OUR SURVIVAL CHECKLIST.
  • Stock up on emergency supplies and information. The American Red Cross offers several comprehensive guides on what to do before disaster strikes.
  • Create a list of all your employees and how to reach them. Remember to distribute copies to emergency team leaders.
  • Set up a remote call-forwarding service with your phone provider. In the event of a crisis, you can quickly re-route all calls to a new location.
  • Identify places that can be used as temporary relocation facilities. Make arrangements with hotel chains or conferencing facilities before a crisis so your company and your employees have priority if space becomes scarce.
  • Back up all computer data every night and store it in a secure, off-site location. Online backup offers several advantages for small businesses, including the ability to access your data from remote locations; @backup and Connected TLM offer a wide range of data storage services.
  • Make emergency arrangements with a service provider. If your business relies heavily on computers for its day-to-day operations, arrange with providers such as Agility Recovery Systems or Sungard Availability Services to have replacement systems available within a specified number of hours.
  • Document duties and responsibilities for each job. That way, someone can step in when a key employee is incapacitated.
  • Consider business interruption insurance. For more information, visit the Insurance Information Institute's site.
  • Think about hiring a crisis-management or business continuity consultant. The Service Core of Retired Executives has 389 offices in the United States that offer crisis-management counseling to small businesses. You can find the one nearest you at www.score.org.

Daniel Tynan is a freelance writer living in Wilmington, North Carolina.

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This article was originally published in the April 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: In Case of Emergency.

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