Mitigate Your Risks: Tips for Business Continuity Planning for Natural Disasters

In 2017 and 2018, the United States experienced 30 natural disasters with losses of at least $1 billion—each.

In 2018 alone, these weather and climate related events claimed almost 250 lives and reached almost $100 billion in losses. Of the 14 significant events in 2018, hurricanes Michael and Florence, together with wildfires in the West, accounted for a majority of those losses—about $73 billion.

Last year (2018), was also the eighth year in a row where the U.S. had eight or more natural disasters with losses reaching $1 billion each. And from January through September 2019, we experienced 10 weather/climate events that reached the $1 billion in losses mark.

If you’re a business owner—no matter how large or small your organization is—and no matter where in the U.S. you’re located, you can be at risk for a natural disaster or significant climate event at any time. Even so, a surprising number of small businesses don’t have business continuity (BC) or disaster recovery (DR) plans, and among the larger businesses that do, most don’t routinely test those plans to ensure they’re prepared when disaster strikes.

Did you know that less than 10 percent of companies that experience a disaster without an effective BC plan survive after the disruption?

A survey conducted by Nationwide Insurance indicates 75 percent of small business owners don’t have a disaster recovery plan, with more than a third indicating it’s not important for their business. Yet, 52 percent said if they were to have a disaster, it would likely take at least three months to recover.

Don’t be caught unprepared. Here are a few tips to help mitigate your risks from natural disasters or major disruptions:

Prepare Now for Natural Disasters

You never know when a natural disaster might happen. Whether it’s an earthquake, flood, fire, hurricane, or tornado, think ahead and know what you need to do to ensure your employees are safe and business can operate as effectively as possible. Be sure to regularly review your BC emergency checklists and don’t forget about ensuring all your team members are aware of your emergency communications plans.

Make BC and DR Planning a Priority for Your Business

Include BC and DR in regular employee communications, starting with employee on-boarding. Partnering with your human resources department can create a culture of resilience. They, along with your organizational leadership, can set expectations by being your voice to their teams. And don’t forget engaging your mid-level managers in all your BC plans and exercises. Their tone-from-the-middle can help your company embrace BC culture!

Simulate, Test, Repeat

Regularly test your plans. Evaluate them with key players—not just top-down mandates—to see what actually works during a disruption, what might not go as planned, and adjust and adapt as needed.

Prepare for the Worst

While you may think that all the planning, evaluating, and reviews you’ve already put into your plan means it’s golden, you should still hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, but be prepared to adapt and respond when you do.

Do Tabletop Exercises Routinely

Tabletop testing should be a routine part of your program. These exercises help you reflect on crisis situations without the actual pressure of real downtime, so you can evaluate and think-through your assessment, risk mitigation, recovery, and review procedures. Do them often and involve as many key team members as you can. Be spontaneous and run an unplanned exercise with your team to keep them on their toes. Need help planning your next tabletop exercise? How about these 10 tips for success?

Stop the Scramble

Remember, it’s always better to be prepared than scrambling in the face of a major disruption. Take the time to invest in ensuring your company has a BC or DR plan that will keep your company operational and lessen the chance that you’ll be among the 90 percent that don’t survive.

Ready for some hands-on help? Let’s discuss how to best achieve your resilience goals.