While companies might not be able to prepare for the impending Mayan end of the world, there are many ways to safe-proof local businesses for disasters on a smaller-than-apocalyptic scale.
1. Make a plan, any plan
Charles Var, VP of marketing for business app developer TrackVia, told BI that "the first step is simply to decide to build a plan and actually do it." And don't wait for an emergency to get started.
"Sometimes this effort is lead by the person in charge of IT, but it's often best done by a committee of people who each share a unique perspective of the business and what's important."
2. Reach out to employees
Seamless, a New York-based restaurant delivery web service, serves as a prime example of what to do right in case of an emergency.
CEO Jonathan Zabusky told Fast Company that he got ahead of the situation well before evacuations were ordered. He had employees reach out to restaurants before the store hit to see if they planned to stay open during the storm and cross-trained employee so that they could readily deal with what would surely be a massive influx of concerned customer calls.
“In a situation like this, it's not important to have employees entering menu data or making sales," he said.
3. Reach out to customers
The key is communicating with both employees and customers (if possible) before, during, and after the situation takes place.
"So in addition to have a disaster recovering plan outlining the steps you need to take to get your business back up and running, make sure to have a companion customer communication plan in place as well," Var told BI. "This is especially important when other businesses or people rely on your products or solutions to run their own business."
If your Internet is up, stay on top of email and social media efforts to keep everyone aware of new developments.
4. Don't try to take advantage
If you are lucky enough to be up and running, use that opportunity for good and not evil.
During Hurricane Sandy, various businesses tried to capitalize on the storm by launching disaster-themed promotional events. This read as pretty tasteless considering that over 100 people died and millions were left without power.
While usual suspects like American Apparel and Urban Outfitters offered flash Sandy sales, many were surprised that Gap and some local businesses also fell into the trap. If you do mess up, apologize. And fast. Gap did, but American Apparel and Urban Outfitters did not.
Instead of launching seemingly exploitative self promotions, which might bring in a few bucks but will backfire in the PR long term, use your resources to help the less fortunate.
This doesn't just involve opening up your checkbook and donating to a charity, either.
5. Offer help
During Hurricane Sandy, New York Sports Club and other gyms opened their doors to storm refugees to charge their phones, take a shower, or take a much needed exercise break. Goldman Sachs gave out water and wifi, and Duracell sent power strips to impacted areas.
6. Protect yourself and your assets
When helping others, however, it's important for companies to remember to protect themselves as well.
"As terrible as it is to say, disasters bring out the best and worst in people," Var said. "So it's important to consider the physical and virtual security needs of your operation during a disaster. This may include having a plan for the physical security of your facilities and employees, to make sure you have the right security technology in place to protect technology assets during a crisis."
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