Management June 5, 2015 Last updated September 18th, 2018 1,765 Reads share

Natural Disaster: What Do You Mean You Have No Plan?

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Situation: Floods, hurricanes, tornados, or other disasters happen multiple times a year. Everyone seems to be weirdly blasé about the fact that they have no plan…

Most older companies have some sort of disaster plan. Why? They understand that the loss of product, the inability to keep the company running, and the property damage from those disasters can be expensive. They don’t want to be one of the 25% of businesses that never reopen after a disaster, so they formulate plans on how their company and their employees, will survive to face another stormy day.

Newer companies may not have the funds to set aside for that type of preparation, but they can still formulate a disaster plan that fits within their expendable budget, and as the company grows, the plan can be reevaluated.

Natural Disaster: What Do You Mean You Have No Plan?

Prep Office Before Disaster

Disasters often lead to property damage. Companies might be able to limit property damage by prepping their office before natural disasters hit. Damage from Hurricanes or extreme wind storms can be mitigated by:

  • Boarding windows.
  • Relocating expensive equipment away from windows.
  • Backing up sensitive data to an external hard drive that is taken off-site.

Physically prepping the office can help for smaller storms, but extreme storms could cause a lot damage. Business owners can protect their business from extreme disasters by purchasing insurance to cover damaged property and the loss of profit from the inability to work. Most people aren’t fond of insurance, but sometimes it really is a necessary expense that will prevent bankruptcy.

Disaster Supply Kits

Disaster plans are meant to not only protect the company, but also to ensure the well-being of employees on-site. In a “best case” disaster scenario, you would have been able to send a warning to employees telling them to stay home. Unfortunately, weather predictions are not 100% accurate, so there might be circumstances where individuals need to ride out storms at the office.

In order to prepare for that eventuality, companies should create a disaster supply kit just in case employees are stuck at the office for a few days. Disaster supply kits are meant to last individuals three to seven days, but smaller businesses should at least shoot for one or two days. Here are a few resources that companies should accumulate:

  • 1 galleon of clean drinking water per employee.
  • Non-perishable food.
  • First-aid kits.
  • A battery powered weather radio.
  • Extra batteries.
  • Power generators

Not all companies will have the funds to create and maintain a disaster supply kit. David M. Smith, Pepperdine University professor, suggests in Business Survival Skills that if a company cannot purchase supplies like water directly, they can make a list of suppliers they can utilize to stock up on material either directly before, during, or after disasters

BYODS: Bring Your Own Disaster Supplies

Disaster plans are meant to protect the business, as well as the individual employees. The disaster supply kit directly contributes to individual employee safety. Due to that fact, smaller companies who cannot afford a disaster kit might want to encourage individuals to contribute to disaster supply kits either seasonally or as potential storm warning have been issued. This can be done in one or two ways: donated supplies can be kept either on-site or in your employee’s vehicles.

The Contact List

On top of those supplies, Ohio University MBA professor Chris Moberg suggests in “Improving Supply Chain Disaster Preparedness” that all businesses should also have a contact list for “key managers, government agencies, and non-profit organizations,” as well as a collection of area maps stored in a secure location. If the information is on a computer, the internet, or an Ethernet, you should also keep a hard copy just in case something happens to the computer, the power, or the internet connection.

The Phone Chain – Don’t Come In

The last thing you want is an office full of workers, if you didn’t have time to build a disaster plan. The disaster plan should include how employees will be notified they should remain at home, and who will be responsible for notifying employees.

Plans should include:

  • Which Manager or Business owner will decide if employees will come in to work?
  • Who will be responsible for calling or texting individuals?
  • Who will be responsible for contacting individuals if the main person cannot make the calls?
  • Text of verbal confirmation that all employees received the message.

The Phone Chain Disaster

Phone or text chains hinge on the ability to utilize phone lines. Last winter businesses in Boston, Massachusetts experienced an unfortunate truth: natural disasters can cause power outages. On January 27th, the power outages in Massachusetts peaked to affecting 34,000 customers. While power outages doesn’t mean phone lines are down, it might mean that some employees don’t have the ability to charge their phone. A dead phone = an inability to receive a text or phone call to stay home.

To prepare for dead phones, companies can send the message to remain at home by:

  • Sending mass emails to all employees.
  • Sending messages on their companies social media accounts.
  • Making it clear beforehand that employees should remain at home if the weather would make an unsafe working or commute environment. Make it clear that failure to show – even if an individual has no means to call in will not result in job termination.

Evacuation Plan

Evacuation plans are only viable if all employees know what the plan is. A few times a year, spend some time running through what employees should do during disasters. Ensure that new employees are told the plans early in their training period. Have one or two mock evacuation drills each year. Determine who will be responsible for taking a head count to ensure if everyone made it successfully out of the building.

In the wake of disasters, many businesses never open their doors again due to direct and in-direct financial loss. Disaster plans can mitigate the financial, as well as employee injury or fatalities. Smaller businesses can start by how formulating building preparation plans, supply kit plans, phone tree plans, and building evacuation plans. Plans and supplies can be improved as the company grows.

Images: “Hands with Computer Tablet completing Emergency Evacuation Plan App by Exit Doors/


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Samantha Stauf

Samantha Stauf

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