Whether it’s a natural disaster or not, businesses can be challenged by events that are outside the direct control of the business owners and managers. The key to successfully handling such events is the planning in place beforehand.
No one wants to plan for disaster, most don’t. Those who have encountered disaster, large or small, tend to wish they had better planned for it.
This advice is far-reaching, designed to act as a broad list of steps you can undertake to be prepared, or to at least get you thinking about steps you could take. Do it all or some, but do something … otherwise when you need good planning you will not have a plan on which to fall back.
Here are some general suggestions on planning for a disaster in your business property.
- Create action plans for different events so that those working in the business know exactly what to do. here are some examples of such events:
- Power blackout.
- Payments (EFTPOS) outage.
- Flooding or water ingress impacting the shop.
- Police incident directly impacting access to the shop.
- Serious health situation by a customer in the shop.
- Attack by customer against the business on social media.
- Loud complaint by customer in-store impacting other customers.
- refusal to supply by a regular supplier.
- Keep in one secure place off-site copies of: Business contracts and agreements; employee contact details, business account and other passwords, insurance details, recent photographs of fixtures, fittings and stock.
- For records you cannot easily copy or that may change as the trading day unfurls, consider having a go bag ready for you to grab if there is a risk to the premises such as a bushfire.
- Maintain a register of all employees in the business premises at any time.
- Prepare and place in a prominent place an evacuation plan.
- Maintain a professional grade OH&S compliant first aid kit. Have this checked regularly.
- Regularly maintain all fire extinguishers – check with your local fire brigade about this.
- Ensure that the business premises is safe and maintained to the local building codes and OH&S regulations.
- Have a trained first aid officer on staff. Your local St Johns or similar will be able to provide training.
- Use government resources, there are plenty at state and federal levels.
Insurance coverage is vital to helping a retail business overcome any type of disaster. In addition to ensuring that your insurance policy covers all disaster situations of concern to you, including flood, theft, water inundation, fire, earthquake, riot—be sure to carefully read the policy, ensure that your insurance policy / policies cover payouts for the following:
- Business interruption. The amount should equal your anticipated gross profit for whatever period you choose to be covered.
- Data recovery. Including the hiring of experts to recover data from backup sources or the manual entry of data which cannot be automatically recovered. It needs to ensure that you are covered to the point of recovered data being useable in transacting business.
- Lost stock. This is stock stolen, lost from the business.
- Damaged and unsaleable stock. This is stock which is water damaged, scuffed or dented and which will not attract full price.
- Dated stock. This is stock that you cannot sell by the due date.
- Many policies require explicit statement of glass coverage.
- Temporary trading premises. Business interruption may cover this. Ensure that it is explicitly stated.
- Key person injury and/or death. This will usually be a separate policy. Depending on the disaster, coverage may also be available through the overall business policy.
Ensure that the value of stock, fixtures and fittings covered by your policy is an accurate reflection of the real value of these items. Talk with your insurance company about the best approach to track this on an ongoing basis.
Insurance brokers can provide access to assessors who can advise on the appropriate level of insurance for your situation.
Use your Point of Sale system to track all stock movements in and out. The stock on hand in your software should be your coverage.
Ensure that your insurance policy protects for the seasonal nature of your business
Business data is one of the most valuable assets of the business. Like insurance, the value is often not understood until you need what you do not have. Retailers who are serious about protecting their business data in the event of any disaster follow these steps:
- Backup your business data every day, at the end of the day, without fail. Use a cloud based backup service that undertakes the backup as the day unfolds without you having to every do anything to cause a backup to be taken.
- Maintain a separate backup for each day of the week. Consider a separate backup for the last day of each month.
- Remove the backup medium, usually a USB stick, from the business premises each day – outside the business property.
- Store the backup in a safe, dry place.
- Check the usefulness of the backup by restoring and checking the data.
- Store original business software in a safe off-site location.
- Check the backup every three to six months – to make sure the backup is actually backing us current data and can be read. A backup you cannot read is a waste of time and money.
- Change your passwords regularly.
- Do not share passwords widely.
Disaster planning is important. When you need it the most is when you face a disaster. Don’t be a business owner who realises that only then.