Every small business owner – regardless of what you think your “risk” is – needs a Disaster Recovery Plan. Floods, fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes – all strike without warning, affecting individuals and businesses alike. Your Plan should consider both people and processes.

Work with your local police, fire, and emergency response teams to determine your needs and share your plans. Ask your insurance agent for input. The Small Business Administration has a plan, and numerous disaster recovery plan templates are available on-line. In the meantime, here are a few basic suggestions for your consideration.


  • Communicate. In a natural disaster, employees have their own problems. Share a plan that lets you connect with them. It might be as simple as setting up a phone tree to reach employees quickly or as high-tech as asking everyone to check in via Facebook.
  • Practice evacuation quarterly. Designate a meeting area and appoint people to lead the drills. Press employees to move quickly to the safe spot.
  • Identify special needs. Determine the communication and mobility needs of employees with disabilities. Assign a “buddy” to support them.
  • Keep emergency supplies accessible. Include a NOAA Weather Radio to provide weather alerts.
  • Create a shelter. Designate a building location as a refuge in a storm or tornado. Stock water, medical supplies, and emergency equipment.

Remember the business:

  • Determine to continue the business. Record your operational processes. Identify the key people and duties. Include payroll and financial records. Your disaster recovery plan should name those who can step up to each position.
  • Focus on your data. Today, every business relies on electronic data to some extent. Consider your data back-up process, and how you will get everything back on-line following a disaster.
  • Name your resources. Banks, customers, vendors, and suppliers may be affected, too, so list your backup contacts.
  • Locate a backup location in case your facility is damaged.
  • Contain Hazardous Materials. If your business has an inventory of toxic or hazardous materials, plan for their containment with your local fire department. Label and store them as regulated.
  • Appoint a survivor. Designate someone, preferably outside your geographical area, to act on your behalf. Entrust him/her with your plans and documents.

As your business grows, you might hire a consultant to assist with your Disaster Recovery Plan, but with some focus, you should be able to complete a plan on your own. Write one now, review it regularly, and make sure it has all the necessary pieces.


by Steven Schlagel