By Bill Begal, an EO DC member and founder and president of Begal Enterprises, Inc., a fire, water and disaster restoration company that responds to the hospitality, retail, manufacturing, industrial, healthcare and real estate industries throughout the US.
As the owner of a disaster restoration business, I’ve seen the kind of impact crises can have on entrepreneurs. These crises often make us wonder: Am I really prepared for an emergency? When something unforeseen occurs—a flood, fire or storm, for example— every moment makes a difference, especially when you’re away from business on travel. Here are some emergency preparation tips based on the experience of past clients.
- Establish a chain of command. Ensure there is a firm chain of command in place when you’re traveling. For starters, “deputize” someone and make certain he or she is available to make critical decisions, document all happenings and engage a restoration vendor to begin the work of mitigating damages should an emergency occur. Having a reliable decision-maker in a time of unexpected chaos can save you time, money and headaches.
- Always back up important data. Where are your digital media, licenses and backup data kept? If they’re kept on site, even in a fire-proof safe, they may not be safe. The fire-proof safe may keep items inside safe from fire, but it might not protect them from heat. Consider purchasing a media cooler. If your vital documents are in a media cooler within a fire-proof safe, you will be doubly protected. Also, make sure that you’re not the only person who knows how to access the safe. When you’re out of town, you’ll want someone reliable to gain entry to your important information.
- Keep your electronics properly charged. If there is a prolonged power outage due to an emergency, how will you charge the electric gadgets on which you rely? This can apply to your staff when you’re on the road. Consider a power strip that has a cigarette plug, so that you can charge a laptop, camera or cell phone in your car without running down the battery. Another option is a solar panel charger. I have one propped in my window; it gets sun every morning and will be charged in case I need it.
- Communicate with your storage provider. How fast can your storage provider find your last backup data, retrieve it, copy it and get it to you while you’re traveling? How fast will you get the information you need to conduct the tasks that keep you in business? Before every trip, I make it a point to contact my provider to ensure we’re on the same page. I also make sure that my office deputy knows how to contact and engage this company so critical time is not wasted.
- Get to know your local restoration vendor. See if they offer an arrangement to guarantee a response in case you need their services while you’re away from your business. If an area-wide emergency occurs, all restoration vendors will likely be busy, which will make it difficult to find a capable vendor with the right staff and equipment. Typically, there is no cost or penalty for not using the vendor, so there’s really no downside. By opening lines of communication with your restoration vendor ahead of time, you can alleviate some of the pain emergencies produce.
- Travel with this newfound knowledge. I suggest placing all of the above information in a notebook. Keep a hard copy for yourself at home, as well as at the homes of your key employees. Many emergencies happen after business hours. mIf weather is bad, employees may not be able to get to the office to retrieve the notebook. Additionally, consider scanning this information and sending it to an e-mail account other than your company one (e.g., Hotmail). If something catastrophic happens, your server, remote access and company e-mail may not work. By sending it to your alternative account, you will have access to it from any computer in the world.
It is my experience that the road to recovery is a little less bumpy when you take a few moments to consider what you need for your business to excel in the face of crises. By planning now, reviewing and updating regularly, you can travel comfortably knowing that if an emergency does occur, systems are in place to get the recovery and mitigation processes started.