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Column: During a disruption, how can you still do business?

Blake FryBlake Fry is president of Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau

Each dramatic home rescue during the tragic events of Hurricane Harvey is a reminder of the importance of having a household emergency plan. Easily overlooked in the effort to preserve human life is the importance for businesses to have an emergency plan. Much like a household emergency plan, a business emergency plan includes basics such as determining evacuation routes, maintaining an emergency contact list, and making sure equipment such as fire extinguishers and smoke detectors are up to date and operational.

An equally important part of a business emergency plan is the ability to answer the question, "During a disruption, how will we keep doing business?" The answer to that question is reached through the creation of a business continuity plan.

It does not take a natural disaster on the scale of a hurricane to disrupt the ability to engage in business as usual. A business disruption can take many forms including:

• Physical damage to buildings

• Damage to or breakdown of machinery, systems or equipment

• Restricted access to a site or building

• Interruption of the supply chain including failure of a supplier or disruption of transportation of goods from the supplier.

• Utility outage (e.g., electrical power outage)

• Damage to, loss or corruption of information technology including voice and data communications, servers, computers, operating systems, applications, and data

• Absenteeism of essential employees

A business' ability to continue to function during any one of these disruptions is important not only to the business owner, but to the employees whose livelihoods are at stake and customers that rely on the products or services provided by the business. A business continuity plan will identify where resources essential to the operation of a business will be secured during a business disruption. These resources include:

• Employees (including lines of succession if appropriate)

• Office space, furniture and equipment

• Technology (computers, peripherals, communication equipment, software and data)

• Vital records (electronic and hard copy)

• Production facilities, machinery and equipment

• Inventory including raw materials, finished goods and goods in production.

• Utilities (power, natural gas, water, sewer, telephone, internet, wireless)

• Third party services

Developing a business emergency and continuity plan can be a daunting process for a business undertaking the process for the first-time. Fortunately, there are tools available to guide a business through the process. The best place to start is www.ready.gov/business. This site, maintained by the Department of Homeland Security, provides and overview of business emergency planning and worksheets that will guide a business through each step of the process (note that some of the links to worksheets are broken, but can be found by doing an internet search for the worksheet title). If you feel a more expertise is needed to properly prepare your business for the unexpected, contact the Chamber and we will be happy to connect you with emergency preparedness experts and the county and state level.

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