Contingency and disaster planning

As your business gets off the ground, it is important to have a strategy for dealing with disaster.

Disasters take many forms, including 'natural' causes such as floods or storms, and 'man-made' calamities caused by human error or sabotage. Careful preparation will minimise the impact on your business, so you should act sooner rather than later. Here are some of the areas to consider:

  • Hazard avoidance. Valuable equipment should be kept away from potential hazards, such as water pipes. Important IT equipment should be kept on upper floors to minimise the impact of a flood and desks left clear overnight to reduce the risk of fire.
  • Safety. Fire equipment, including alarms and extinguishers, should always be in full working order. Escape routes should be clearly marked and accessible at all times, and floors free from obstructions.
  • Security. Undertake a review to ensure that security measures are adequate, with locks and alarms in working order.
  • IT and information protection. Firewall and anti-virus software should be up to date, and a policy enforced to ensure that unsolicited emails are not opened. Important information should be backed up and a copy kept in a separate, secure location. Sensitive data should only be accessible to key members of staff.
  • Insurance. Insurance policies must be valid and offer sufficient cover, including buildings, contents and key personnel.
  • Contingency plans. The business should have a disaster plan detailing possible hazards and likely outcomes, and setting out the individual roles of members of staff. The plan should be reviewed regularly.
  • Emergency routine. Staff should practice the emergency procedures.
  • Recovery. You should have a recovery plan, complete with a time-scale for action.

Remember that being prepared could make all the difference to the well-being of your staff and the long-term survival of your business. Even if the worst doesn't happen, you will reap the benefits, by reducing your vulnerability to everyday risks and improving staff confidence

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