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A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.
By Candis Lane, WSBDC project coordinator
“In light of the recent fires on Casper Mountain, and other disasters throughout the summer, I’ve been thinking about what I would do if my business was affected. Can you offer some suggestions to help me position my business to withstand a disaster?” Marie, Casper
It’s not without reason you are concerned. Statistics show as many as 40 percent of businesses fail following a natural or manmade disaster. You’ve worked hard building your business and creating jobs in your community; now, take proactive steps to protect your employees and your business by doing preparedness planning and creating a business continuity plan.
Your goal should be to get your business up and running again in the event you aren’t able to perform critical operations. The most challenging part may be just getting started. You’ll need to do some planning and putting pen to paper. Since your business is uniquely your own, you probably won’t find a “fill-in-the-blank” template for the process. However, there are many resources available, which I’ll reference later in this article. Once you have a plan, you’ll need to keep it current.
It may help to break the project into the following categories: planning, preparation, responsiveness and operations resumption. If you have employees, involve them in the process and stress the importance of planning within their homes and families. You and your staff will not be able to do your best if concerned about loved ones. Incorporate training drills: Everyone needs to know how to respond. Include individual responsibilities, notification and communications (including locating family members) and staff accountability. Response procedures should consider evacuation, location of emergency supplies and equipment, equipment and utility shutdown, and shelter.
Identify critical services and functions. What do you do? Who’s responsible for what? Who do you serve? Think about your clients. How might an interruption of your services impact them? Consider where you serve your customers and how you serve them. What are your staffing needs? Suppose you aren’t able to operate with a full staff? What are your equipment needs? How do you store your company information? Could work be performed from another site?
Also consider different types of interruptions, each causing a different degree of break in service time. Scenarios might include a simple service disruption like a power outage; suppose you have a suite of offices and only a portion of the offices are affected. Maybe your entire building is destroyed or a large area within your community is affected and people are displaced, and homes and businesses may be uninhabitable for an unknown period of time.
September is National Preparedness Month. This is the perfect time to start building emergency preparedness into the culture of your organization. Incorporate procedures into new employee orientation by including an overview of your processes and providing a copy of your plan. Each step you take brings you closer to recovery. Take action today to ensure the safety and well-being of your employees and families, and to position your business to continue to thrive.
Those resources I mentioned to help you through the process:
The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email email@example.com, or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.