Three steps to survive and recover from a disaster

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Australia’s recent fires have highlighted how important it is for businesses to be prepared to withstand and survive crises and disasters. Here, we explore steps firms can take to prepare for a serious threat, as well as some strategies to follow to recover from such an event.

This is important, as research reveals how material the threat of disaster is across the country. A report produced by Deloitte shows the cost of disasters is growing and expected to reach $39 billion a year by 2050. Moreover, more than nine million Australians have felt the effects of natural disasters over the past 30 years. According to the report, “the number of people affected annually is expected to grow as the intensity and, in some areas, the frequency, of events increases.”

Although the incidence and severity of disasters may be rising, there are many actions businesses can take to help reduce negative impacts from them.

1. Prepare a crisis management plan

This starts with identifying the risks that have the potential to affect the business and rating them from very likely, to likely, to unlikely to very unlikely. The list will be different for every business. For instance, most businesses face the threat of cyberattack, so this risk should be categorised as likely or very likely. But if the business is located in the CBD, it’s unlikely it will suffer the threat of bushfire. Once you have categorised the major risks the business may face, develop and document mitigation strategies for the threats that are most  likely to affect the company.

It’s also essential at this stage to create a list of emergency contacts for the business. This should include contact details for all directors, managers and staff, as well as emergency contacts for all staff. Put in place a process in the business to ensure this is regularly updated.

Carrying out a simulation exercise is also very valuable to identify any weak points in the firm’s emergency management response system.

2. Take out business pack insurance

All businesses should have the right insurances in place so that, in the event of a major emergency, the business can recover.

Business pack insurance provides protection so that, in the event a firm suffers a fire or other disaster, it will receive a payout for any property, plant, equipment and stock that have been damaged. This insurance can also cover staff wages while the company gets back on its feet again, as well as loss of trading profits.

3. Back up data and systems

Sound record keeping and information management is at the heart of every robust business. So before disaster hits it’s essential to test the IT system to ensure that, in the event of a cyberattack or other emergency that has the potential to disrupt commercial activities, operations can continue. It’s an idea to store the firm’s information in the cloud to allow staff to access this remotely if the premises are not able to be accessed.

It’s easy to assume your business will never be affected by a major disaster – and hopefully this will prove true. But in the event it does experience a catastrophe, it pays to have thought through what the response will be so the company can resume normal trading as soon as possible.