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

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

The responsible thing to do is to plan for disaster. Your localutility companies can help you develop a plan for dealing withpower, water and telephone outages. The Red Cross andemergency-management agencies can help with other aspects ofdisaster preparedness. And put your plan in writing. Copies shouldbe maintained in your office and in the possession of key people inyour organization.

The general areas your plan should cover include:

  • Communications. Include current contactinformation of all key company personnel and critical outsideresources. Include how you'll keep employees and customersinformed.
  • Staff responsibilities. Establish a chain ofcommand and clarify who's responsible for what to avoidduplication of efforts or the possibility that a critical taskwon't be done.
  • Supplier issues. Ask what emergency plans yourvendors have and whether they're equipped to handle specialneeds during a disaster.
  • Data protection. Develop a data-backup program toassure that critical information won't be lost in the event ofa power outage, fire or flood.
  • Operations. Protect your company with emergencylighting, sprinkler systems, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers,clearly marked utility shut-offs and backup generators. Trainemployees to use emergency systems, as well as evacuationprocedures.
  • Security. How will you preserve the safety andsecurity of your employees and your facility if something happens?Know who has keys to the building, and keep duplicate sets in asecure place both on- and off-site.
  • Relocation. If your facility is inaccessible orunusable, what are your options for relocating-both temporarily andpermanently?

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

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