disaster-planningIf disaster strikes, how prepared is your business to weather the storm? You have probably written out a plan of action for use in the event of a crisis, and that’s a good thing. The problem arises when businesses feel secure in their plans, even though they haven’t revisited them to ensure their information is still relevant, up to date and accurate.

When was the last time you audited your disaster plan?

It’s not enough to make a plan and then tuck it away in your files to forget about until it’s needed. Businesses change. Assets change. Your disaster plan has to change with them, or you might be looking at significant losses in the event of a major disaster. At least once a year, it’s important to revisit your plan to determine if it’s still the best course of action.

How do you determine what the best course of action is? The answer may be different for every business, but most will have a few things in common. For one, it’s important for any business to determine what their most critical assets are. That is, if you are blindsided by a disaster, what assets do you need to take care of first to get back on track as quickly as possible? Or at the very least, which ones need to be protected to avoid the biggest losses? Even if you can’t immediately get running again, you can at least try to protect those assets which make running possible.

For instance, a client’s roof was ripped off by a tornado, and their plant lost power. Going into the disaster area, we knew they needed to move substance through their piping before it hardened into concrete. We fired up the generators and connected a small compressor to actuate the valves, to move this substance through. It wasn’t an easy process. But how much harder would things have been if nobody knew which assets to protect first? The substance would have hardened, and piping would have been destroyed. Things could have been a lot worse had there been no plan in place.

Pull out your plan, and make sure it’s updated with your most critical assets and with what processes would need to be taken care of first in the event of disaster.

Go a Little Deeper

Sometimes disaster strikes somewhere seemingly far away but with serious consequences for your own company. In today’s global economy, businesses are using suppliers and manufacturers from around the globe to provide the materials, products and labor they need to get things done. So what happens if there is a disaster which effects one of your suppliers?

This very thing happened to a client in the Midwest who was using a supplier in Tennessee. Their supplier’s factory was shut down after a tornado touched down. Our client was used to receiving a weekly rail car full of soda ash from the supplier, but while the factory was out of commission, there was no way for the materials to be sent. They needed a new supply. Fast. Soda ash could be purchased locally in super sacks, but it took many of those to equal a rail car. The company also had no backup method of feeding the materials into the factory. Eventually, we determined it was necessary to load a rail car with super sacks of the soda ash to keep their production lines going. Without a plan in place to acquire the necessary materials, things still got done, but they could have gone a lot smoother if there had been a clearer plan of action.

Have you even considered what your plan would be in the event of disaster somewhere outside of your general area? If you do business with anyone outside of your own geographic location, it’s time you did. It is not enough to develop a plan of action as a means to protect your business should an earthquake or tornado or other disaster strike in your own area. You need to determine what will happen if something happens to your suppliers, contractors or anyone that provides a product or service crucial to your business, even if they are operating on the other side of the globe.

Where else can you find a product or material? What is the most efficient way of getting a backup supply? Can the backup method provide all the materials you’ll need, or will you need multiple backup suppliers to meet production goals? Can you cut down production temporarily? These are all questions you need to ask yourself as you audit your disaster plan.