Is your business located in an area that is prone to hurricanes? Being an emergency answering service located in Florida, we’ve seen our share of hurricanes and tropical storms since opening our doors back in 1986. Our business has backup plans for our backup plans that have kept us in operation through Hurricane Charlie, Francis, Jean and most recently, Hurricane Matthew.
We want to share our experience and expertise so you can properly prepare your business for a hurricane or other natural disaster. If you don’t prepare for these kinds of emergencies, your business could be severely impacted and even be forced to close for long periods of time after the hurricane strikes. It’s estimated that, “A small business owner will lose, on average, $3,000 a day due to closing after a major storm or emergency disaster.”
Minimize the losses your business may face during a hurricane by thinking ahead and preparing for the worst.
When faced with a hurricane or other natural disaster, the most important thing business owners have to worry about is their staff’s safety. Create a detailed evacuation plan that your employees can easily carry out.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employers are required to have an Emergency Action Plan (EAP). Your business’s EAP must include, at a minimum, the following information:
- Procedures for reporting a fire or other emergency;
- Procedures for emergency evacuation, including type of evacuation and exit route assignments;
- Procedures to be followed by employees who remain to operate critical plant operations before they evacuate;
- Procedures to account for all employees after evacuation;
- Procedures to be followed by employees performing rescue or medical duties; and
- The name or job title of every employee who may be contacted by employees who need more information about the plan or an explanation of their duties under the plan.
If you have less than 10 employees, this plan can be given orally to your staff. However, to meet OSHA requirements, if you have 11 employees or more, your Emergency Action Plan must be in writing and stored in your workplace.
After you have trained your staff on your office’s evacuation plan, test your plan out with your staff to be sure everyone knows what they must do in the event of a hurricane.
Most business owners know the importance of backing up their company’s important data. However, are you just backing up to a device that is stored in your office? If so, this isn’t the best solution for making certain that your important data is protected in the event a hurricane comes knocking on your door.
Invest in a reliable backup and disaster recovery (BDR) solution that lessens your exposure to data loss. Perform a little research on your own to see what solution is best for your particular needs. In the best situation, your data will be backed up frequently and automatically through a cloud-based service provider.
If for whatever reason you don’t want your sensitive data backed up via the internet, create a manual backup plan to transfer information to an external drive. Store this physical drive in a secure safety deposit box or in a waterproof/fireproof box or chest.
Pull out your business’s insurance plan to review in detail and make sure you have the coverage needed to withstand a hurricane. Contact your insurance agent to discuss what is covered in the event your business is hit, specifically, by a hurricane.
Do you rely on local service providers or vendors in order to run your business? If so, have a brief pow wow with each provider to discuss their policies and track record of being able to deliver during a hurricane or other natural disaster.
If your vendors give no guarantees, consider making a list of 2 or 3 backup companies that you can turn to in the event your normal vendors are not operational. Having alternative vendors to assist you when weather conditions are bad will give your business a better chance of staying open post-hurricane.
Will your business phones go out during a power outage? It’s important to know the limitations of the telephone technology you’ve selected for your business. Here’s a brief rundown of various phone systems that most business owners use for their telecommunications.
- Landlines. Your old fashioned landline phone will pull power through your phone lines and can work if your office experiences a power outage. However, if a hurricane throws debris around and knocks out your city’s phone lines, your customers won’t be able to reach you until the phone lines are repaired.
- Wireless Phones. Wireless phone lines are typically powered by electricity and connect to your phone line. They will not work without electricity or a battery backup.
- Cellphones. Your smartphone/mobile phone will work in the event of a power outage, but you will eventually need to have a power source to recharge your phone. If your cellular network/carrier gets overloaded, you will not be able to use your cellphone to speak with your customers.
- VOIP. If your business uses a VOIP system via DSL, your telecommunications will not work during a power outage. If you utilize VOIP via a cable, your system may work while battery backup on cable towers are functional.
- Emergency Answering Service. Outsourcing your business lines to an emergency answering service is the best solution to ensure that your available to your customers during and after a hurricane. That being said, make sure that your answering service has onsite backup equipment, generators and other emergency plans in place to keep your lines operational.
To get more information on how you can successfully prepare your business for a hurricane, read more helpful tips at www.Ready.gov/business. Launched in February 2003, “Ready is a national public service advertising (PSA) campaign designed to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies including natural and man-made disasters.”
Our emergency answering service wants to make sure all business owners have the information they need to keep their staff safe and their businesses operational during hurricanes. If you’d like to know how our virtual receptionists can help out by answering your phone lines during and after hurricanes, give us a call at 1-800-785-6161 for a free consultation.