Why Every Small Business Needs a Crisis Management Plan

Picture the scene: you’re sat at your desk when the floor and walls of your office begin to shake. For a brief moment, you have no idea what's going on. Then you realise--it's an earthquake! By then the intensity of the quake has already doubled. Suddenly the lights flicker, dim, and go completely dark. Filing cabinets, desks and workstations jerk to the floor and slide around the room. Window panes begin to shatter. And you, what do you do next?

If you have no answer to that question, then it's probably high time for you to seriously consider the preparation of a workplace emergency plan for your small business. After all, not many of us can remain calm and think rationally when faced with potentially life-threatening situations. A crisis management plan will help you, your employees, and your company survive, regardless of when the BIG ONE strikes.


What Is a workplace emergency?

None of us would choose to be at our desks when disaster unfolds. Unfortunately, emergencies happen with no regard for place or time. A workplace emergency is defined as an unforeseen situation that threatens employees, customers, or the public, and causes a severe disruption or complete shut down of business operations, often accompanied by serious structural and environmental damages. Emergencies are either natural or humanmade, and can include:


Terrorism. Floods. Explosions. Fires. Hurricanes. Chemical spills. Tornadoes.

Power failure. Gas leaks. Radiation. Civil unrest. Earthquakes. Workplace violence.


Small businesses may also experience company-specific emergencies such as injury, illness, or the of a company leader, a massive IT failure, a PR crisis, or even a drastic plunge in financial markets. A well-thought-out crisis management plan can help you, and your company, deal with all kinds of threats, including these.


Conduct the necessary research

A competent and efficient emergency reaction plan stands or falls with the research. You should start by gathering information about the most common risks to your industry, assess the potential for natural disasters in and around your location, and compile any other relevant information regarding your geo/political situation.


If you have the budget, you will want to bring together as many experts as possible, from within your own workforce, but also from outside contractors, to create a team of crisis managers. Together you can research incidents, situations and events that have happened to similar companies which will help you prepare for the worst.


It's also important for you to make a list of the primary corporate functions that need to bepicked up again as soon as possible AFTER the crisis has been contained. Also, outline the resources your company will need to get your business back up and running as usual.


Of course, you want to be as detailed and organised as possible, but avoid creating a crisis management plan that is so complex and lengthy people simply won't bother to read it. Having an unread emergency plan tucked away in a drawer somewhere is possibly even worse than having no crisis plan at all.


This is why, instead of adopting a one-plan-fits-all approach, it can be more efficient to create a number of different plans for different types of crisis, Once your major shareholders have signed off on the plan(s), they are ready to be distributed to your staff members, but remember to save a few digital copies that can be accessed online.


Test the plan

Writing the plan down is only the first step. Next, you'll want to roleplay your plan to make sure your team leaders and staff members know what they have to do in the event of an emergency. This will also help you iron out any unforeseen flaws and problems.


Testing is probably the most overlooked part of crisis management. Many businesses in the past have implemented crisis management plans only to realise too late that they had built critical deficiencies into their processes, several of which severely hampered their chances of success. You can test your emergency reaction policies by staging emergency drills. Make sure all contact numbers are correct and confirm that everyone understands the role they need to play when the crisis hits.


Finally, update your crisis management plans at regular intervals. Carry out reviews and prevention tasks, such as testing security systems, updating system passwords, checking fire extinguishers, changing the batteries in smoke detectors, and backing up servers, etc.


Other tips for crisis preparation

Preparing for disaster also means supplementing the crisis management plan with additional resources, like, for example:


1. Store survival supplies in the workplace

Having the right supplies on hand when a crisis hits can literally save lives. Basic survival kits can include a small amount of food and water, a radio, a torch, a clock, an emergency blanket, toothbrush and toothpaste.


2. Get yourself a few first aid kit

All offices and places of work should have a first aid kit at hand. They enable the care of wounds and other physical injuries until emergency services arrive to help.


3. Practice CPR

When carried out within the first few minutes of a cardiac arrest, CPR can triple a person’s chance of survival. Keeping your employees updated on the latest CPR techniques can save someone’s life, perhaps even yours.


4. Sign up for SMS emergency alerts

Opting into a government service that alerts you via text messages of impending disasters in your area is a good way of staying that one small step ahead of imminent danger.


Emergency and crisis reaction plans take a lot of work to create. But Boy Scouts, seismologists, and staff of our emergency services will all tell you how crucially important it is to 'be prepared'. And once you've taken the time to create a crisis management plan, you can rest easy, knowing that if disaster strikes, from slightly annoying to the catastrophic, you’ll have done everything you could have to be ready for it.

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