Over the next few weeks, you’re going to see a lot of publicity about preparing for the upcoming fire season.
A lot of what you’ll hear from the Colorado Springs Fire Department, El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies about the Ready, Set, Go campaign will be focused on reducing risk to your home and protecting your family in the event of a wildfire.
This information is equally vital for your business.
The “Ready” portion of the campaign aims to get homeowners to protect their homes by taking measures such as clearing away flammable materials, and to create a family disaster plan.
The “Set” part means you are organized — you’re set up to receive disaster alerts, you have a “go” bag packed with essential items, and you know what to do to secure your home.
“Go” means you and your family are prepared to leave as soon as, or even before, an evacuation order is issued. You and all of your family members know where to go and how to get there.
You’ll find plenty of details about doing all of these things at www.ready.gov, the website the Department of Homeland Security has put together for the Ready, Set, Go campaign.
There’s a separate portion of the website for businesses as well. Just as preparations you make at home can give you and your family the best chance of surviving a wildfire, planning in advance can ensure that you and your employees stay safe and that your business will survive.
“Business owners should be planning for various types of disasters,” says Robin Adair, El Paso County Community Emergency Preparedness Coordinator. “First ask: What is the risk for my business? What if there is a fire, flood or massive power outage? What do I need to do? Planning for any disaster will help you in other situations as well.”
The “Ready” portion of the campaign for businesses involves developing a preparedness program. Materials provided by the campaign outline five steps in this process:
1. Program management: Organizing, developing and administering your preparedness program, including identification of any regulations about minimum requirements that might apply to your business
2. Planning: Gathering information about hazards and assessing risks; conducting a business impact analysis; and examining ways to prevent hazards and reduce risks
3. Implementation: Writing your preparedness plan, which addresses resource management, emergency response, crisis communications, business continuity, information technology, employee assistance and training
4. Testing and exercises: Evaluating how your plan works in real time
5. Program improvement: Reviewing results of testing and exercises and making necessary adjustments and improvements.
A business continuity plan is a crucial element of a preparedness program. It defines the roles and responsibilities of each member of your organization, including lines of authority, succession and interaction with external organizations such as contractors and vendors.
The continuity plan also identifies key resources, processes, procedures, logistics and IT requirements for each team or department — the things that must be in place for the business to function — and outlines strategies for relocation, recovery, manual workarounds or replacement if they are lost during a disaster.
The plan also covers procedures employees are to follow during an incident. Who will alert others about a potential event? Who will make the decision to activate the business continuity plan, emergency operations center or incident action plan?
There are numerous actions you can take that will cost you little or nothing except time. For example, at no cost, you can:
• Set up a meeting with your insurance provider to review your coverage
• Create a list of employee emergency contact information
• Create a list of critical contractors and clients
• Decide in advance what you will do if your building is unusable
• Create a list of inventory and equipment for insurance purposes.
For less than $500 you can:
• Buy a fire extinguisher and smoke alarm
• Provide first aid and CPR training to key employees
• Back up your records and critical data, and keep a copy offsite
• Update your anti-virus software and firewalls
• Set up a telephone call tree, password-protected page on your website or email alert to communicate with employees during an emergency.
Other preparations, such as purchasing additional insurance, installing a sprinkler system and fire-resistant doors, or hiring a security professional to create or evaluate your disaster preparedness plan, may cost more but can pay dividends when an emergency strikes.
“The disasters we’ve gone through in the past have emphasized the value of planning ahead of time,” Adair says. “We need to get the entire community involved in preparedness. It’s not just up to first responders; it’s up to businesses and citizens too.”
Read more about preparing for the wildfire season in the April 27 edition of the Business Journal.