HERO (Help, Expertise, Resources, Online) is ACCE’s online information repository and virtual reference desk. Open 24/7/365 with live help every business day, HERO is the place to start answering your next chamber-specific question like this one…
What should I do to be ready in case a natural disaster strikes my area?
We all know disasters can happen without warning, from floods and fires to tornados and hurricanes. Be ready for the unexpected by proactively developing plans for disaster preparedness and business continuity. Get started by checking out our Disaster Preparedness & Recovery Toolkit, available for download in our Samples Library. It’s important to be proactive now rather than reactive during a time of chaos. Here are three steps for getting started right away on disaster preparedness:
- Conduct an inventory. Be sure to include in the inventory all office equipment, materials, supplies, files, and technology. Make copies of the list to store in a fireproof box. Also consider storing a copy of the inventory, along with photographs and copies of important documents, offsite in a safe place. Assign a team member the responsibility of keeping the inventory up-to-date and secure. Review documents, including insurance plans, annually.
- Create a plan and assemble a kit. A Disaster Plan is a vital tool for faster recovery after the unexpected occurs. Also develop a Business Continuity Plan or Business Impact Analysis (examples of these can be found in the Disaster Preparedness & Recovery Toolkit). Assess and prepare for your region’s unique risks, such as hurricanes, tornados, floods, and earthquakes. Include in your plan steps you’ll take in emergencies, how you’ll approach recovery efforts, and important operations considerations, including people, IT, and finance. How will you evacuate in an emergency and how will you communicate with staff and other stakeholders? Draft an emergency preparedness/recovery budget, create disaster checklists, compile a list of emergency contacts, and identify chain of command procedures.
Include in your disaster kit drinking water, nonperishable food, flashlights, batteries, waterproof matches, a first aid kit, dust masks, latex gloves, emergency whistle, garbage bags, personal hygiene items, basic tools (wrench, pliers, etc.), and battery-powered or hand-crank radio.
- Communicate and educate. Make sure staff is prepared now and have a detailed plan for communicating with your team during and after an emergency. Identify lead staff emergency contacts, establish a chain of command, compile an updated contact list of staff members and your board of directors, and identify key community contacts. For staff and volunteers, provide a printed plan and contact list and ensure they have access to the information digitally. Train your team to be prepared and ready to assist in an emergency, whether it’s shutting off utilities or knowing where to find and how to use a fire extinguisher. Identify evacuation routes and collaborate with neighboring businesses to share best practices. Talk with government leaders about emergency and disaster plans for your community. Consider training your staff on basic safety and emergency first aid skills (your local American Red Cross can probably help). When on-boarding new staff and board members, provide an overview on safety and emergency planning. Include plans in employee manuals and board books. Review plans annually with your staff.
While this short list is not all-inclusive, following these tips is a great way to get started with your disaster planning. Disaster recovery plans are meant to serve as a guide for helping your team resume normal business operations as quickly as possible. To be even more prepared, consider assembling a disaster plan task force for your chamber. Set aside money and consider long-term financial planning to cover emergency expenses. Check out ACCE’s Dynamic Chamber Benchmarking to see how your organization stacks up on financial reserves (and also chamber assets and liabilities). Help your members be prepared, too, by sharing your plans. Look to chamber peers, like the Calgary Chamber and the Galveston Chamber of Commerce, for inspiration and examples.
Dig deeper with additional resources. Start exploring at www.ACCE.org/HERO
- Chamberpedia pages on disaster preparedness and recovery, crisis communications, and financial investments (for ideas on reserves)
- ACCE’s Disaster Recovery and Preparedness Toolkit
- Government resources: DisasterAssistance.gov, FEMA.gov, CDC.gov, OSHA.gov, SBA.gov
- National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University: ncdp.columbia.edu
The HERO team is looking for examples of legislative position statements, social media plans, annual reports, and more. Share examples by sending your work to Hero@acce.org
Sarah Myers and Holly South are ACCE’s directors of Information and research. They connect members with information resources to solve problems and explore opportunities. Ask your question at: www.ACCE.org/ask