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How Well Will Your Business or Commercial Property Weather A Disaster?

June 16, 2015
Posted in Perspectives
June 16, 2015 MeissnerJacquet

Disasters are inevitable. They come on suddenly, in a variety of forms, and cause significant damage – earthquakes, floods, fires, power outages, broken pipes – and can be man-made or natural. So how can you prepare your building, your tenants, your staff, and your stakeholders for the unknown?

Calculate Risk

Your first step should be to calculate the financial risk across the entire business and prioritize your business continuity plan accordingly.

Your plan should start by first addressing the most critical components that will need to get up and running after a catastrophic event. It’s likely that communications will top that list, but what comes next may be unique to your business and building. The list must also factor in outside invested organizations and the surrounding community public service entities.

Business Crisis Management Checklist

What does a basic business crisis management checklist consist of?

Keep it Uncomplicated

  • Documentation is key and should include standards, policies, flowcharts, equipment, manuals, and crisis management trees per location or business unit.
  • Take a principles-based approach by using outlines
    • Identify and define a range of emergencies and how to respond to each
  • Align the plan with the culture of your organization
    • Keep in mind that some individuals respond to written material, while others favor verbal or hands-on demonstrations and incorporate all of these styles into your plan

Supply Chain

  • Define and identify the critical suppliers to your business and the possible problems they may have in servicing your organization.
    • What would be the impact if they could not supply you with the goods and services you need to keep your business operating?
    • Where else can you obtain what you need to effectively operate?
    • How can you make sure you will have access to the specialized machinery or facilities essential to run your business (off-site storage, systems redundancy, emergency services, etc.)?
    • Do you have systems in place to ensure that suppliers get paid no matter what?
    • What is the continuity of supplies from utility service providers (fuel, gas, electricity, water)?

Contingency Plan

  • Identify the key components of your organization that are crucial to keep it running.
    • What components can be halted, relocated or delayed?
    • What data is most critical to the business and how can you protect it?
    • What back-up arrangements do you have in place for your most critical resources (IT systems, communication systems, contractors, power supply etc.)?
    • Do your employees have the ability to work remotely if necessary?
    • Who have you identified as your key staff who will keep the most critical elements of the business going?

Crisis Team Design

  • Find a champion (Executive Level Leadership or Management Team) to help reinforce business continuity planning across the organization.
  • Appoint an emergency team and assign roles and responsibilities.
    • The team should meet on a regular basis – not just during an emergency.
    • Together they should determine:
      • Clear cut recovery operations within defined timeframes and processes.
      • Assessment of the condition of the staff, the building, any product and/or service, and how quickly the organization can resume operations.

Communication

  • Identify the stakeholders in your organization and how you can work with them to support each other in times of crisis.
    • These can include key clients, employees, the property management firm, vendors, insurance providers, community organizations, and industry/business associations.
  • Consider involving the news media when the event involves potential threat to surrounding areas or physicals injuries – Appoint and train a company spokesperson who understands how to work with the media.
  • Determine a method of contact and communication on and off site

Training

  • Train staff in basic emergency preparedness and schedule regular training exercises
  • Run practice scenarios
  • Develop debriefs after incidents (real or simulated)
  • Become actively involved  in community response groups

Insurance

  • Check your insurance coverage to ensure that business interruption and supply chain disruption are covered
  • Make sure your data is also insured

Building Crisis Management Checklist

 

Preventative Maintenance

  • Have specialized professionals perform building inspections on a regular basis, including review of such systems as:
    • Roofs
    • Walkways
    • Parking lots and structures
    • Windows and doors
    • HVAC
    • Wiring and electrical
    • Plant machinery
    • Back up generators
    • Redundancy systems

Prepare Occupants

  • If they need to evacuate the building, make sure they know:
    • How much time they will likely have,
    • What they should (and should not) take with them,
    • What the preferred emergency exit route is,
    • Where they should go once they have left the building,
    • Who will be directing them (fire officials, police, company-appointed individuals),
    • What plans are in place for their return
  • If they cannot safely evacuate, make sure they know the following:
    • Where all medications and first aid materials are located (should be placed in waterproof bags and kept in a low-humidity, cool location),
    • Where emergency supplies can be found.

Identify an Emergency Shelter

An emergency shelter should be designated and/or designed either in a lower level of the building or off premises (in the case of a catastrophic disaster).

  • Make sure it:
    • Is easily accessible for all building occupants,
    • Contains all supplies as recommended by FEMA and The Red Cross,
    • Has a communication system setup,
    • Serves as a place for the community and the media to gather.

Crisis Management

The good news is that business owners and property operators don’t need to navigate disaster preparedness or recovery alone. Your commercial property management team should be a key participant in the planning and – when needed – execution of your successful crisis management strategy.

Meissner Jacquét Commercial Real Estate Services, a San Diego-based commercial property management company, employs crisis and risk management techniques to ensure that our clients and their commercial real estate assets are protected. Tim Meissner states that, “Each property management team verifies that all tenants, vendors and contractors are appropriately insured in accordance with the property business plan.  In addition, Meissner Jacquét maintains appropriate levels of corporate liability insurance and employee insurance.”

When a disaster occurs, ensure you are not found unprepared to respond to basic emergencies and – in the worst case – crippling catastrophes. Your business and your property simply cannot afford it.

 

Sources:

  • Meissner Jacquét Commercial Real Estate Services
  • FEMA
  • Be Prepared California
  • SBA
  • Red Cross