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Don't Let Disaster Devastate You. Take These 3 Steps Now. Plan ahead and hopefully you'll never have to put your plan into action. But if you ever need it, you'll be glad you have it.

By Matthew Toren

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Emergency plans are often tedious to build but crucial for success. Natural disasters occur in nearly every corner of the globe, so knowing what to do in an emergency is essential not only for your own survival, but for your business. Don't think emergency plans are only for large businesses either. Whether you work from home or have a small office, you need to be prepared for anything.

Related: Natural Disasters Are Unavoidable. Is Your Business Ready? (Infographic)

1. Always have a cushion. When your business is down due to an emergency, you need to have the liquidity to keep afloat. Will the bills stop if your business does? How will you cover a payroll gap? If your office building or home is destroyed, will you be able to afford temporary rental space while the insurance handles the damage? There are so many financial considerations when planning for an emergency that it has never been more important to have a cushion set aside to ensure your business can handle a disaster.

2. Formalize your plan. Have a response plan that you and your staff go over and update quarterly or bi-annually. If you're in an office, odds are good the building manager takes care of the mandatory fire drill compliance and evacuation plans. But what if you're a home office? Do you have staff coming to your home? You need to consider several things when putting together your formalized plan. Here are a few factors to weigh in on when writing your plan:

  • Establish a chain of communication and distribute proper contact info to the right people on your staff.
  • Establish a meeting point nearby in the event of a fire or other natural disaster during working hours.

Related: Richard Branson on Disaster Planning

  • Give copies of important contact information to your leadership team. Key contacts like your insurance agent, attorney, financial representatives and accountants should be accessible to your leadership team.
  • Create a power-of-attorney plan in the event you or one of your key leaders is harmed or unable to respond during a time of crisis.

3. Secure your backup. One of the biggest challenges if you have to abandon your home or office space is getting back to business as soon as possible. If you're going to need a back-up offsite location, it's a good idea to have that location designated (or at least have a list prepared of potentials) ahead of time. Make sure as you work, you and your team back up your files on shared servers or hard drives and in the cloud. This will give you access to all your data from anywhere instantly in a variety of emergencies. Also, it's a good idea to make copies of the crucial documents of your business and scan them into the cloud, then store the originals off-site. Consider your daily activities -- if you need it now, you'll need it to get back to work if you're displaced.

Related: How a Business Emergency Plan Paid Off in Tornado-Struck Joplin, Mo.

Matthew Toren

Serial Entrepreneur, Mentor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com

Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley). He's based in Vancouver, B.C.

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