Full access to Entrepreneur for $5

Company Emergencies

This is only a test . . . but do you know what you should should do in the event of a real emergency?

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Disasters come in all shapes and sizes-from hurricanes and earthquakes to fires and utility failures-and your business' survival depends on how prepared you are for each of these situations.

The responsible thing to do is to plan for disaster. Your local utility companies can help you develop a plan for dealing with power, water and telephone outages. The Red Cross and emergency-management agencies can help with other aspects of disaster preparedness. And put your plan in writing. Copies should be maintained in your office and in the possession of key people in your organization.

The general areas your plan should cover include:

  • Communications. Include current contact information of all key company personnel and critical outside resources. Include how you'll keep employees and customers informed.
  • Staff responsibilities. Establish a chain of command and clarify who's responsible for what to avoid duplication of efforts or the possibility that a critical task won't be done.
  • Supplier issues. Ask what emergency plans your vendors have and whether they're equipped to handle special needs during a disaster.
  • Data protection. Develop a data-backup program to assure that critical information won't be lost in the event of a power outage, fire or flood.
  • Operations. Protect your company with emergency lighting, sprinkler systems, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, clearly marked utility shut-offs and backup generators. Train employees to use emergency systems, as well as evacuation procedures.
  • Security. How will you preserve the safety and security of your employees and your facility if something happens? Know who has keys to the building, and keep duplicate sets in a secure place both on- and off-site.
  • Relocation. If your facility is inaccessible or unusable, what are your options for relocating-both temporarily and permanently?

Once you've written your plan, practice it. Disaster drills are critical to an effective response to an actual situation. Drills make sure everyone not only knows what to do but that they've also done it already. Finally, evaluate your plan periodically to make sure all the information is current and your strategy is consistent with your needs.