How to help your clients with a disaster plan, to minimize risk before the next natural catastrophe
Hurricanes along Atlantic states. Fires in California and Colorado. Floods in the Midwest and Southeast. Earthquakes in Oklahoma. And that’s just this month. No matter where your clients are located, there’s always the potential for a natural disaster. That’s why it’s crucial to prepare ahead nature’s next curve ball, with a business disaster plan. It’s their strategy for being prepared.
Last year, more than 8.8 million acres burned in wildfires, compared with 10 million in 2017, says Insurance Information Institute. The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season was the third year in a row for above-normal damaging seasons. So far this year, there have been 1,165 confirmed tornadoes in the U.S. alone, as compared to 456 the previous year. All add up to one truth: It pays to be prepared for a natural disaster with a business continuity plan, so that your commercial client is better positioned for recovery.
We’re offering solutions that will be applicable to all types of Mother Nature’s temper tantrums. Some will be applicable to your locations; others will not (floods vs. fires, for instance). Still, here are 10 ways you can help commercial clients plan ahead to protect employees and minimize risks, with a disaster plan.
1. Identify hazards
As in any risk assessment plan, help your clients first identify their hazards. What is stored in an open yard that will be damaged and may create a risk for employees? What is their risk of fire, whether from natural or man-made sources? How about their risk of flood? If they’re in an earthquake-prone area, what steps can they take to secure their building and its contents? If the disaster occurs during work hours with little-to-no-warning, how will they provide for staff?
2. Check insurance coverage
Now’s the time they need to confer with you to ensure they’re covered for natural calamities occurring most often in their area. According to Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation (as reported in PropertyCasualty360), Hurricane Irma impacted 90,000 businesses and 58,000 commercial properties. Many received the insurance coverage they expected; others found out the hard way that they didn’t have the coverage they assumed they had.
3. Have a communication plan in place
An important aspect of preparedness is a crisis communications plan, enabling your client to respond promptly and confidently during an emergency within hours – and days to come. Make a list of the types of audiences with whom you’ll need to communicate, from employees to clients. Learn more about a crisis communications plan here.Provide your clients with a link to this article for tips on compiling a list of important phone numbers; how they’ll contact employees, customers, suppliers and more. It’s also a good idea to file a copy of their business disaster plan with local law enforcement officials so they’re better equipped to aid you in case of emergency. And once they’re back in business, they’ll want to quickly – and continually – communicate via social media and other channels appropriate for your tribal business.
4. Train employees
Included in a written plan should be two sections: one for evacuation, and one for sheltering-in-place. Employees should be trained on all procedures.
5. Protect computer data
Important records and papers including employee files should be duplicated and stored in a secure (offsite) location. Use a data storage firm that offers offsite and online backups of computer data. Update back-ups regularly.
6. Identify critical business activities
If you client cannot afford to shut down operations temporarily, what will they need to run the business elsewhere? Can they provide a safe temporary workspace for employees? What resources need to be on hand? What alternative facilities, supplies or equipment can they use? Help them to consider a reciprocity agreement with another business: If they’re temporarily out of commission, they can conduct business from the alternate location. And if the reciprocating business is badly damaged, your client agrees to allow them to use their facilities.
Using a business disaster plan after the event:
7. Protect workers
Typically, cleanup and recovery operations fall to your business owner client and his or her employees. Instruct them to minimize hazards to their team as they begin clean-up to get back to business. Before anyone gets started, communicate any dangers and hazards to watch for. This may include downed power lines, wildlife taking refuge in the structure, standing water which may mask other issues, structural damage or chemical spills.
They should be dressed appropriately for the hazards: hard hats, safety glasses, heavy work gloves and sturdy boots or shoes. Your client should provide water and ensure the group takes frequent breaks. If chemical spills or animal or human waste is present, provide disinfecting solutions to be used prior to eating/drinking and at the end of the shift. Workers should also be trained in the proper use, cleaning, decontamination and maintenance of personal protective equipment. First aid kits should be on hand to quickly attend to any issues.
If they’re using a generator, it should be adequately vented. Using power tools? Their electrical supply should be equipped with GFI protection. Guards and safety devices should be in place for all equipment, such as chainsaws. Avoid using extension cords in wet areas.
Related: After a disaster: Employee safety tips for business clean-up
This article first appeared on our Tribal Program website. It has been updated modified to better fit the needs of Valiant’s workers’ compensation clients.