Disasters — 10 Ways to Be Prepared

“Disasters” for small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) can arise from many sources and come in all shapes and sizes. Many studies report that 60% to 80% of SMEs that are hit with a major disaster don’t survive … unless they have a contingency plan.

The big news items that catch our attention are usually about natural catastrophes like hurricanes, tornados, floods, and wildfires. But SMEs can also be severely impacted by death or disability of owners or key employees, strategic blunders, or by lawsuits from clients, partners, or competitors.

The costs of any disaster can be significant, and very often there is inadequate or no insurance coverage. In contrast, the out-of-pocket costs of preparation planning are tiny. And still, a contingency plan is one of those “important,” but rarely “urgent” things on many to do lists.

Simplify Your Planning

1. Make a list of internal staff and external experts who can help you get a handle on this Contingency Plan project. Jot down ideal roles and responsibilities for each. Your team can help with timetables, motivation, and input.

If feel you could use help early on, please contact me. Brainstorming is at no charge. Consulting is reasonable. Do not let yourself be overwhelmed by the seeming enormity of it all. And above all, don’t do this alone!

2. Identify your business vulnerabilities: what could be a “disaster” or crisis for your business? This is the key starting point and a good time to create a cause and impact worksheet. Team members can provide creative ideas.

3. Each vulnerability – something that could cause a disaster – can have different causes and impacts. List these on your worksheet.

4. For each “cause,” consider how to prevent a loss or disaster from happening.

5. Each “impact” will need a contingency or mitigation plan. What plans can you create in advance to help a faster and less-costly recovery?

6. Each plan step can be expanded with specific action items, team member assignments, responsibilities, and authorities (i.e., budget). This is where checklists can be an essential aid to team members.

Note: you will find many over-lapping action steps, so you’ll be able to re-use lots of steps to mitigate the impacts of different disasters.

7. Some research with outside resources may be useful to complete your action plan checklists. Expertise may include: insurance, legal, accident investigation, training courses, regulatory requirements, contingency plans of major suppliers, and clients.

8. Set timelines to get initial plan drafts, then updates with input from others. Celebrate the team’s accomplishments of even the small milestones!

9. Practice is important but often neglected. Go through each step with a tabletop exercise of possible disaster scenarios. Verify the team’s contact lists and the URLs of resources.

10. Recognize the additional benefits of prevention and mitigation planning. What operational inefficiencies have you found? What process or admin bottlenecks can you eliminate? What new aha! ideas for preventing losses have surfaced? Which team resources have you discovered as most important in a crisis?

Call or email (510-685-3883 | charles@risksmartsolutions.com) if you would like to discuss your unique situation – there’s never a cost for brainstorming!

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One Comment

  1. Charles T. Wilson September 10, 2015 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    Corri DiBagno, friend and colleague added another real-life story:
    “Another valuable RiskSmart Tip. As you note, most companies fail to fully recover from a “disaster”. I recall a regional bakery (5 locations) that CHUBB insured. Each bakery was self sustaining except for one essential product……..the flour. This came from a central buyer in another section of Philly. A major storm surge took place which caused the Delaware River to breach its flood stage banks……this water surge wiped out the flour milling area, delivering a real blow to the bakery’s’ supply chain. The resulting Contingent B.I. loss sent the bakery into default (did not have a backup plan for the flour….nor enough Time Element Coverage!). Thus ended one of Phillys’ most well known bakery operations…..all for the lack of disaster planning!”
    Thanks, Corri

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