Tampa, FL – January 5, 2011 – (RealEstateRama) — Recent record snowfalls and ice storms in many regions of the country are a reminder to business owners to be sure they are prepared for severe winter weather that is likely to continue throughout January and February, according to the Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS).
Snow and ice can bring down power lines, resulting in electricity and phone outages. Also, fallen trees limbs or power lines over transportation routes can impede travel, not only for employees traveling to and from work, but for suppliers that deliver essential products or services to a business. Conversely, a business owner’s ability to deliver goods or services to clients or customers could be curtailed.
“Severe winter weather can be very disruptive,” said Diana McClure, IBHS’ business resiliency program manager. “There are steps you can take to minimize the impact on people (your employees and customers), your property (building, contents, inventory and data) and your business operations. Having in place a business continuity plan to help you resume essential business operations will help you to recover quickly following even the worst winter weather.”
The first step in preparing a business continuity plan is to determine which functions or activities are most crucial to resume in order to:
· keep your business competitive;
· maintain your reputation;
· provide for adequate cash flow; and
· fulfill your legal, regulatory, financial and contractual obligations.
“It is important to determine where you are the most vulnerable and what can you do ahead of time to minimize that vulnerability,” McClure said. “Also, what kinds of alternatives and redundancies can you put in place, so that you have options when an interruption occurs.”
Actions to take ahead of time include:
Protection of employees and availability of your workforce:
· Allow employees to leave for home while conditions are still safe.
· If appropriate, have a policy in place to allow employees to work from home. Plan ahead for payroll continuity.
· Encourage employees to strengthen their homes for winter weather and to be prepared to take care of themselves for at least three days.
Protection of your information and data to support business resumption:
· Do not keep critical information and data in only one place. Regularly back it up and store it off-site or online.
· Test your ability to restore data at least quarterly; this will ensure that your data back-up procedures are working.
· Consider an alternate back-up solution. For instance, if you do not have access to your Internet back up, you might be able to retrieve key information from an external hard drive. Some businesses keep paper versions of up-to-date employee contact information, customer lists and other critical information for just such an emergency.
Operational Continuity – A Few Suggestions:
Generators: Given the likelihood of lengthy power outages, one important piece of preparing for winter weather is the purchase, safe operation, and maintenance of a generator so that you can continue to serve your customers even as some streets in your community are waiting for plows or utility crews. You may choose to install a standby generator and automatic transfer switch (ATS) or install a manual transfer switch (sometimes referred to as a storm switch), which makes the business “generator ready.” A storm switch allows the flexibility of deploying a mobile generator as needed, where needed.
Supply chain: Think about the possible impact of a widespread snow or ice storm on your suppliers. If you ascribe to just-in-time deliveries or maintain limited inventory, plan ahead for what is essential and be sure you have enough on hand. Conversely, a key supplier might be unable to deliver due to winter weather, whereas you remain untouched. Have alternate supplier contracts ready to use.
Customer base: If you depend on walk-in customers or phone orders, think about an alternative strategy. If you can notify your customers through e-mail, a recorded voice mail message, or a notice on your website about your recovery location and/or how you plan to meet their needs, you have a better chance at maintaining your cash flow, remaining competitive and preserving your reputation.
For guidelines on preparing your property, check out IBHS’ Severe Winter Weather preparation materials. For information on creating a business continuity plan, consult IBHS’ Open for Business® tool.
IBHS is an independent, nonprofit, scientific and educational organization supported by the property insurance industry. The organization works to reduce the social and economic effects of natural disasters and other risks to residential and commercial property by conducting research and advocating improved construction, maintenance and preparation practices.
Joseph King (813) 675-1045
jking (at) ibhs (dot) org