Disasters come in all shapes and sizes and can strike at any time — often without warning. Businesses can face natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes or snowstorms, and man-made disasters such as hacking, embezzlement or a violent attack.
With all the time, money and effort you put into your business, it’s vital you protect it by having a disaster plan in place. Having a plan to follow when disaster strikes can mean the difference between your company’s survival and having to close down forever.
The U.S. Small Business Administration provides resources for businesses that want prepare for worst-case scenarios, and I’ve connected with some experts to get additional advice about creating a disaster plan for your business.
According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers are not required to pay nonexempt employees for hours they would have worked. However, your state may have laws that require a minimum level of pay for being available to work or showing up and being sent home. Employers must pay exempt employees the full salary if the workplace is closed for less than a full work week. They may also require exempt employees to use leave instead.
As part of your disaster plan, consider the kinds of decisions you may be faced with in the event of a variety of disasters, such as:
- If you lose your payroll records, how will your employees get paid?
- Is there any way your employees could continue working from home?
- If weather keeps people from getting in to work and they can’t work remotely, will you require employees to use their leave, or simply pay them?
Document Your Disaster Plan
Skip Williams of KingsBridge Disaster Recovery recommends compiling a list of the ingredients needed to rebuild the core of the company. This might include personnel and their contact information, a departmental structure list, key vendor and customer contact information, a list of hardware assets and where they can be sourced, and other essential details.
“There really isn’t any rocket science involved — the information already exists within the business, but it is just scattered across too many locations, and in many cases it exists only in the heads of some key employees,” Williams says. Developing a plan means pulling the information together in one place, and documenting it in an organized manner so it’s readily accessible.
Mark Norton, director of continuity planning at Agility Recovery, says there are four basic elements to include in a comprehensive disaster plan:
- A team that will lead during a crisis.
- A list of the most common examples of risk your business could face and what you can do to mitigate those risks.
- A list of your most essential business functions and your strategy to get them restarted after an interruption.
- A crisis communications plan for reaching employees, emergency workers and other critical parties.
Your IT assets will need particular attention in your business’s disaster plan. First, you’ll need a geographically distant recovery site, which can come in the form of a dedicated duplicate data center or the shared infrastructure of a cloud service provider, says Alberto Farronato, director of product marketing, storage and availability at VMware. You’ll also need duplicate server infrastructure to run recovered applications, software for moving data to a recovery site, and processes and software solutions to restart servers and reinstall operating systems.
As part of your continuity planning, it’s important to define recovery objectives for your technology and data, Farronato says. Work with your IT department to identify the “Recovery Point Objective,” which is the maximum amount of data loss your organization can withstand, and the “Recovery Time Objective,” which is the maximum amount of time an organization can withstand without IT services from the starting point of the outage.
Planning for a disaster includes training your employees so they know what their duties are if something goes wrong. Depending on the disaster, your employees may need to shelter in place, evacuate, respond to emergency situations, or do a mix of the above. Training employees to respond to different emergency situations and updating that training on a regular basis can help ensure they’ll do the right thing if disaster strikes.
Testing your disaster plan is an essential part of your businesses preparedness efforts, according to the SBA and Agility Recovery. Testing can help you identify problems in the plan and help prepare employees to fulfill their assigned roles should you need to put the plan into action one day.
Once you have a plan in place, make sure you revisit it annually and revise it as necessary, Norton says. “You’ll never have a perfect plan, but you can always improve the plan you have through regular updates and testing. The more planning that has occurred, the better performance you can expect in a disaster situation. During a disaster, employees will be stressed, tired and facing increased pressure, which will affect their abilities to make decisions; having a plan can give them a place to start.”
Need help creating or updating your company’s disaster plan? Contact us for assistance.
HR Solutions is a human resources outsourcing firm based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We eliminate human resources headaches for businesses with 10 to 1,000 employees by handling their payroll, employee benefits, regulatory compliance and other staffing needs. Contact us to learn how we can streamline your company’s human resources function to save money and reduce risk.