Tag: small business continuity plan

“Wholistic” Approach to Emergency Preparedness


Emergency Planning requires wholistic approach

At any given moment, take a look to your left. Then to your right. If disaster hits right now, one of those people is going to be your “first responder!”

Given what you see, what are your chances???

“We are all in this together.”

Here at Emergency Plan Guide you’ll see our wholistic approach again and again: “We are all it this together.” That’s why we extend our concern beyond individuals to the groups they find themselves in.

In our new book, Emergency Preparedness for Small Business , we point out the many groups connected to a business. Here’s an abbreviated look at some of them, and how they fit into the “wholistic” approach.

Every business community plays a role in YOUR business’s ability to survive a disaster, . . . and needs to be included in your “wholistic” emergency preparedness plan.

Your relationship with each of these groups can impact your brand and your reputation. Your community relationships impact your employees’ skill levels and quality of life. And your communities play a role in your ability to respond to emergencies.

If you’re a business owner or an employee, are you including these communities in your wholistic planning? 

What follows are excerpts from Chapter 3 in the book. (More communities are identified there.)

-The physical location

If you are in a business or industrial location your primary official contacts are likely the city government and local fire department. They will be concerned about providing immediate response to the threat of toxic chemicals, fire, flood, etc.

Other nearby businesses will have the same concerns – and will compete for the same official resources.

If your business is located near (or in) a residential area, nearby residents may have additional concerns about safety and security, including the company being prone to looting or other potential lawless activity.

-Employees and their family members

Communications with staff and family members are absolutely critical.

You probably already have an Emergency Contact form for employees. Does it have contact info for ALL family members plus an out-of-area contact? Do you know about special skills employees may bring to the emergency response table?

-First Responders, hospitals and other health care resources

How close are you to fire and rescue installations, hospitals, emergency care facilities? Under normal conditions, how long does it take them to respond to an alarm in your neighborhood?

Within your organization, what medically trained people are available, and what first aid and medical supplies do you have on hand for them to use?


Have you met with representatives of your different utility companies? What is their ability to respond to disruptions? Who in your organization should be trained on utility protocols?

-Telecommunications Companies

What level and type of services do you receive for voice, data, internet, video and restoration services in an emergency?

-Local, State and National Governments

What kind of resources can be mobilized at the local city level to deal with a crisis? The county or state level? How/when could you receive assistance from a National Guard deployment? FEMA?


Keeping the various stakeholders (board of directors, financial advisors, etc.) apprised of business conditions is an important management commitment. All stakeholder groups will have questions and will likely demand updates as to the company’s status in an emergency.

-Suppliers and business partners

What contingency plans do your suppliers have in case they run into problems?


How will you support customers – local, long-distance, international – if the business is interrupted? How will customers be contacted in an emergency?

-Social Media

We have seen repeatedly how “news” of emergencies spreads dramatically via smartphones. Keeping the company’s messaging consistent to prevent rumors and speculation is a primary requirement in an emergency. Do you have protocols set up?

OK. These aren’t all the “communities” associated with a business. One of the reasons they all need to be considered?

Neighboring business communities may have conflicting interests in a disaster.

Bear in mind that the interests of these different groups can vary greatly.

Most will likely be sympathetic to your emergency situation and even helpful in the recovery process. Others may jump at the opportunity to take advantage of your problems. Still others might feel you were negligent in not taking reasonable or sufficient precautions to protect them from your problem – not to mention protecting your own employees, visitors, etc.

As always, thinking your situation through before an emergency hits will help you anticipate everything that could go wrong – and help you start setting priorities for building the processes and the relationships within the community that will make your response easier and more effective.

You might want to take another, closer look at Emergency Preparedness for Small Business. You can see the entire Table of Contents at Amazon.  

Virginia and Joe
Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. We’re not lawyers but we have had enough business experience to be able to warn our readers of some of the legal dangers of not having a business emergency plan. We include those warnings in Chapter 8 in the Book.






Preliminary Findings


Remember this?

Business Survival Survey

A little over a week ago we put out a short survey. Its purpose was simple. Knowing that survival statistics are bad for businesses with no emergency plan, we wanted to . . .

Alert readers to potential weaknesses at THEIR places of business.

A first round of answers has come in, and they have encouraged us to widen the reach of the survey before coming up with a final report.

In the meanwhile, though, we want to share some preliminary findings because they are compelling. (We’re not sharing everything in detail because we don’t want any responders to be able to identify themselves in the answers!)

Here are three questions whose answers were particularly dramatic.

“Do we have a plan?”

Around 25% of our readers say their company has no plan – a lot better than averages that you’ll see below. More unsettling, though, was the 30% of our readers who admitted that THEY DON’T KNOW IF THERE’S A PLAN OR NOT!

Clearly, these businesses are the most vulnerable to being shut down by a disaster — and never re-opening. Those statistics are well established:

  • Nationwide’s 2016 poll of 300 small businesses found that most small-business owners (68 percent) still don’t have a written disaster recovery plan, That’s better than the 75% from two years earlier, but still shockingly high!
  • And the long-standing statistics from FEMA remain the same: 40% of small businesses without plans that are forced to close due to a disaster – never reopen!

Of course, just having a plan doesn’t guarantee you’ll get through unscathed. But it certainly will improve your chances of at least getting through alive!

Action item: If your business has no continuity plan, see if you can uncover the reasons why not. (Tread delicately.)

“Do we know what to do in an emergency?”

As you can imagine, employees at companies with no plan, or where the plan hasn’t been practiced, WILL NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO IN AN EMERGENCY.

In our small survey, over 70% of the companies leave people totally to their own devices when it comes to responding to an emergency!

If your company falls into this category, you personally may have some idea of what you’d do first, and what others should be doing. (I feel confident in saying this because you’ve been thinking and reading about emergency preparedness for a while, via Emergency Plan Guide.)

But what about the rest of the people? Would they be able to help, or would they hinder? Would you be able to direct any activity? What about new hires, or temporary employees? What about visitors?

You can imagine the chaos – and the possibility of further danger or damage!

“Does the business have a plan for communicating with our families?”

So far, this has been the piece of the plan that most businesses overlook altogether. In our survey, nearly 90% of people said there was NO PLAN FOR CONTACTING FAMILIES.

Over the years at Emergency Plan Guide we’ve reported about what happens when employees are separated from their families. In Katrina, police officers abandoned their posts. In one shocking incident in Japan, 128 elderly people were abandoned by medical staff at a hospital. Just recently in Florida, four city employees decided to stay at home from work to be with their families and pets – and they were fired!

And we’ve seen what’s been happening in Puerto Rico over the past 10 days, when families have been totally cut off.

Whether you are required or expected stay at work may be written into your contract. You can’t be forced to stay, of course, but your employer is free to fire you if you don’t follow that contract.

In any case, being able to let your family know you’re O.K., and knowing THEY are O.K., would allow you to make a better decision about your next step. A good disaster plan includes preparations for facilitating these emergency communications for employees.

What’s next?

Thanks to our friends who took the survey, we have already been encouraged to follow up on some specific threads, with more Advisories. We have a book in the planning stages, too. It will be specifically for small businesses.

In the meanwhile, we need more data to make our survey more reliable.

We’ll be reaching out to more people to get more data, and you can help!  First, if you didn’t take the survey last week, feel free to take it now! (Statistics from SurveyMonkey showed that sure enough, the average time to finish the survey was less than 2 minutes!) Here’s the direct link to the survey:


Second, forward this message to people you care about! Encourage them to participate in the survey and to sign up to get ongoing Advisories, like you do.

(You will see the “ad” for the survey on the home page: http://EmergencyPlanGuide.org )

For all of us, the best time to think about responding to a disaster is BEFORE it happens.

Thanks – and stay tuned for more!

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team