Rain, Sleet, Snow or Ice … Are you prepared?

Playing off my last post, Have a Plan Work the Plan, as well as the #smbiz chat held tonight on Twitter, I felt the need to share a bit on disaster planning and its importance. Throughout my career, I’ve seen businesses with great crisis plans in place along crisis planningwith those that have extremely poor plan … or even no plan at all.

In Oklahoma — between spring storms, tornadoes and massive ice storms — the risks for weather-related disasters are plentiful. Also, living in an area of the country where oil and gas-related businesses can be found on every corner, the risk of man-made disasters is on my mind frequently too.

A former employer of mine happened to be focused on serving the oil & gas industry by inspecting and repairing live pipelines. The likelihood of an accident occurring on those pipelines was extremely high. On my first day of employment, I asked whether the company had a crisis plan. The answer I received was a resounding “no”. Once I got over my initial shock, I sat down and started outlining possible scenarios.

Steps to Developing a Crisis Plan
1) Brainstorm scenarios — Think about every possible crisis that could affect your business. These can be natural or man-made, physical or technological. etc. Think about the common issues that might arise but also think creatively and consider slightly off-the-wall situations that might throw you a curve ball.
2) Pull together the crisis team — Gather your cross-functional representatives and discuss scenarios and the company’s responses to each.
3) Start answering questions — Where will your command center be located? What materials will you need for each scenario? Who is on the crisis call list? Who will be your spokesperson? Consider every scenario and prepare yourself for how the company will react. Choose the leaders in your organization who will get things done quickly and correctly.
4) Write it all down — Create an actual written plan that outlines everything that is decided. This not only provides a playbook by which you can practice but it also gives the company a foundation for future changes, especially as employees change.
5) Practice, practice, practice — Very important to the success of a crisis plan is the practice that your organization puts in. Take time at least once a year to run through the basics of your plan. This will prepare you for the occasion when a crisis actually hits and give your team the confidence to react calmly and professionally.

This is nothing new to you, I’m sure. But it is important. Let me know your thoughts on what I’ve missed.

Image: Flickr.com (Carrie Peters)

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