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Minimize downtime from disasters with planning

A disaster recovery plan is important for any kind of business after a catastrophic event such as a hurricane. But recovery is particularly vital for businesses like convenience stores that sell essential supplies such as food, water and gasoline.

One company that the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) said did a particularly good job getting its doors back open quickly after the storm was Fayard’s BP on the Coast, a locally owned chain that currently operates in four locations.

Keith Fayard, co owner, Fayard’s BP, said experience is a big part of being prepared for natural disasters. It is important to know what vendors to call for things like electrical repairs.

“In the business community here, you know who’s who and what’s what,” Fayard said. “If we need an electrician, we know who to call. The same thing for roofers or other types of repairmen. Just being in business for 30 years, we know who to call.”

Fayard’s was able to start pumping gasoline after the storm by borrowing an electrical generator from a neighboring business down the road, Kennedy Marine. It plans a similar action if another storm hits.

“Let’s hope it doesn’t happen again,” Fayard said. “But if it does happen, yes, I’m prepared for that.”

Consider communication

Communicating with employees is an important consideration. After the storm, land telephone lines and cell phones didn’t work. Fayard’s was able to communicate with employees at other stores because they would come to the Popps Ferry Road location to get gasoline.

“We were the center of communication when there was no other kind of communications,” Fayard said. “People would drive here and tell us what was going on. Everyone needed gas, so employees would come here. That is how we communicated.”

Adequate insurance

Planning to be adequately insured is something that should be done far in advance of hurricane season. Ashley Roth, spokesperson for MEMA, said business owners should make sure current insurance policies will sufficiently cover any natural-disaster property and casualty claims, including business interruption losses.

Roth also advises business owners to develop a recovery plan for their business by asking the local emergency management office about community evacuation plans. Businesses should establish warning and evacuation procedures and facility shutdown procedures.

“Make plans for assisting employees who may need transportation,” Roth said. “Make plans for communicating with employees’ families before and after a hurricane.

“Know how to contact your employees if their shift is cancelled or the business will be closed.”

Checking the list

Other advice includes:

• Purchase a NOAA Weather Radio with a warning alarm tone and battery backup.

• Survey your facility.

• Make plans to protect outside equipment and structures.

• Check if your phone system will work without electricity. If not, have at least one phone line that can operate without electricity.

• Make plans to protect windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection. Covering windows with plywood is a second option.

• Consider the need for backup systems such as portable pumps to remove floodwater and generators to provide emergency power.

• Prepare to move records, computers and other items within your facility or to another location.

• Consider how to recover any digital data if there is a significant power outage or if computers and servers are damaged. Keep tax and payroll records, records of inventory and essential information at an alternate site.

• Establish an alternate operating location and back-up suppliers.

• Maintain three to five days of inventory. If a disaster occurs, the loss isn’t as great.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.

About Becky Gillette

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