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Thursday, Apr 26, 2018
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Businesses need to create emergency plan

Yes, itís only April. However, we at the Sun City Center Area Chamber of Commerce have to plan things in advance, so weíre already working on summer events such as hurricane preparedness. Just like other small businesses, we need to have an emergency plan in place. If itís a storm, how do we protect the electronics? What important, irreplaceable things do we put up into the hayloft? If itís a long-term illness of one of the staff, how do we accommodate that? Business owners often become so concerned with day-to-day operations they donít always pay attention to minor details. Thereís a saying: ďWhen youíre up to youíre a** in alligators, itís hard to remember your initial objective was to drain the swamp!Ē But, if someone has been in business long enough, theyíve probably suffered some type of business interruption. If theyíre like 62 percent of business owners nationwide, they donít have a plan in place to handle emergencies or disasters. Not having an emergency plan in place can lead to some pretty dire consequences.
In developing an emergency plan there are a few things you might want to consider. The most important thing is to decide that you are committed to having one. Without the conviction of the owner, the plan will be weak Ė at best. Next, identify and evaluate critical business functions necessary to keeping your doors open. What are the threats, vulnerabilities and risks? If you own a restaurant and there is a long-term power outage, do you have backup generators and outdoor grills? Have you had a pre-emergency walk-through of your building with a company like ServiceMaster 24 Hour so they know what resources they need to bring after a disaster? Is your important data stored in the cloud? This is when you assess the impact and the time it would take to recover if you were to incur a business interruption. Is there a secondary person fully trained who could take over if the primary person or owner is out of commission? How long would it take to get that person in place? Developing a continuity strategy now will aid in your recovery. Make sure it addresses each of the essential business functions. The best way to do this is to involve your employees. Here at the chamber we took a couple of hours late one afternoon and had a ďcampfire talkĒ to make sure we had all of our issues covered. It was important to me to make sure DeeLores and Dosi knew our first priority is to keep them safe. Not only are we all great friends, but letís be practical: The knowledge and investment made in training them is valuable. If you have a larger company and your plan calls for each employee to have a distinct role in the emergency plan, you may want to train your employees with simulated exercises and audits. Just because you have a plan and itís in a notebook somewhere, you arenít done. Update the business continuity plan every year, or when major changes occur. I canít overstate the importance of having this plan, because stuff does happen. Make sure if it happens to you, youíre prepared!

Dana Dittmar is the executive director of the Sun City Center Area Chamber of Commerce.

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