Will your business be able to continue operating after a disaster?

Cultivating suppliers and customers, learning how to distinguish your company from the competition, finding ways to keep expenses in line — all these facets of business require long hours, technical expertise, and determination.

Unfortunately, the fruits of your labors can be ruined overnight when disaster strikes. Hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and other calamities have derailed companies all over America. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that over 40% of businesses never reopen following a disaster and at least 25% of the remaining companies will close within two years.

That’s why it’s imperative to create a strategy to keep your business operating when the unexpected happens. Here are four factors to consider when creating your disaster recovery plan.

  • Safety. Make sure everyone in the firm is aware of evacuation routes and out-of-office meeting locations. Update your disaster plans to include check-in and accountability procedures. Review contact lists periodically for completeness and accuracy. Store emergency supplies and response kits in a convenient location for easy access and retrieval.
  • Data recovery. Identify key data and staff responsible for ensuring that off-site backups are maintained. Keep contracts and other vital documents in a fireproof safe or safety deposit box, and make copies for storage at your attorney’s office or another secure location. The faster you can regain access to significant data in the aftermath of a disaster, the quicker your business will be up and running again.
  • Insurance. Review your coverage periodically so you’ll be able to meet payroll and keep operating if facilities or systems are out of action for a time. Ask about “business interruption insurance” that covers income losses from causes other than physical damage. If possible, keep a supply of emergency cash to fund several months’ worth of business expenses in an off-site location.
  • Training and employee backup. Distribute your plan to every employee and make online copies available. Conduct regular exercises to test evacuation and emergency communications scenarios, and modify disaster plans as necessary. Some key staff may not be able to perform their duties during a disaster, so be certain other trusted individuals know where important records are kept and how to step in if required.