According to the Institute for Business and Home Safety, 1 in 4 businesses are unable to reopen following a major storm, flooding event or other disaster. By their very nature, these incidents are unpredictable and difficult to mitigate, but being proactive is an important part of disaster preparedness.

The way you orient your office and work areas can not only keep personnel safe but also minimize the risk of lost or damaged property. Electronic assets and information can be threatened by a major storm or office fire. Executives and business owners should craft a framework for avoiding issues and staying ready if extreme weather or other events present themselves. For healthcare providers or IT specialists, any delay could have serious implications for patient safety.

Here are a few of the most basic items to consider when assessing your business disaster preparedness:

1. Create a plan
A well-established disaster recovery and business continuity plan has a number of components. First, there should be an understanding of how to stay safe during an actual disaster. This means marking all exits and making sure employees know when and how to exit the building safely.

Establish protocols for keeping customers or patients protected as well. This is among the most important aspects of staying proactive in the face of any serious events. Use smoke detectors and other systems to spot any danger and err on the side of caution when it comes to major storms.

“Establish protocols for keeping customers or patients protected.”

Protecting your business and limiting the potential fallout is the second step in crafting a disaster readiness plan. You may not be able to protect your office from a fire, flood or other event, but you can minimize any disruption to operations. Work with administrators to identify possible locations for a temporary office, how to forward calls, mail, supply deliveries and other essentials.

Overlooking this can be detrimental. Office Depot found that 71 percent of small businesses do not have an existing disaster preparedness plan. More troubling, nearly two-thirds of small business owners not only believe that such a plan is unnecessary, but also that they would be able to resume operations within three days following an extreme storm, fire or other event. However, when it comes to keeping your employees and organization safe, as well as maintaining business workflow, this attitude can be dangerous.

2. Prepare your electronics
As more and more business is done online, keeping digital information safe from harm is a key consideration. One easy step is to ensure computers, medical devices and servers are elevated off the ground. This keeps them safe from flooding, which can occur from a simple water leak.  Automatic water sensors and shut-off valves can also be used to minimize damage.

Be sure to backup digital information on secure, off-premise or cloud-based servers as well. This way, entire systems can go offline without compromising your business’ most pertinent data or affecting operations. Tangible, for example, works with clients to store the most important information and keep it safe from all sorts of potential risks. Patient data is privately secured and available whenever you get back online.

3. Review insurance coverage
Another way to protect your company is to make sure your insurance coverage and limits are current. Business continuity coverage plans, for example, help you transition into temporary office space and react to an unforeseen problem. Periodically, coordinate with a representative to make sure your disaster preparedness extends to insurance. If you don’t own your building or office, talk to your landlord or property manager to learn more about coverage and what plans are currently in place. There may be companies in your area that specialize in disaster preparedness and recovery. Build a partnership with a nearby organization in case of trouble.

Floods can damage businesses throughout a city.Floods can damage businesses throughout a city.

4. Make sure employees understand your listed plans
Talk with department heads and senior staff members to make sure every team member fully understands the specific disaster prevention plans you have laid out. This is important for ensuring safety. Likewise, work with your staff to make sure they follow-up with tasks like backing up computer systems, client contacts and other information that may be necessary when switching to a temporary office. Let employees ask questions or field suggestions when creating or amending a disaster preparedness plan.

5. Work with your partners
Reach out to IT vendors and other partners to learn more about how they might work with you in the face of a disaster. This might include extended deadlines, securing data and any other number of tasks that can make disaster preparedness a little more smooth.

To learn more about specific planning for medical practices, the Medical Group Management Association has many resources to help identify needs focused on smaller organizations. These can be instrumental in keeping patients and staff safe and provide a framework for disaster prevention. Likewise, there is information available on recovery and assistance programs following a weather event, fire or other issue.