By Tess C. Taylor, PHR

After staying up all night watching the news reports about Hurricane Sandy’s devastation along the Eastern seaboard, it occurred to me that not only are there millions without access to the basic necessities like electricity and water this morning, but there are also multiple businesses crippled by this monster storm.

As a native New Yorker, my heart goes out to all the folks affected by this natural disaster that experts are saying is the worst in over 100 years. Northern people are strong by nature – so I have absolute confidence that they will rebuild and get back to the hustle and bustle of daily life in no time at all.

Yet, as a business owner with an HR background, I am also thinking about the organizations that are now left to pick up the pieces to resume business as usual in the midst of chaos. Where do they even start?

Disasters like Hurricane Sandy and Katrina, earthquakes in California, wildfires in Colorado and more can snap businesses continuity planning back to reality in one fell swoop. Oftentimes, these events remind business owners just how fragile their infrastructures are as their foundations shake. For many, even those not directly affected by disaster, an overwhelming sense of dread can easily overcome even the most stable of business owners.

That’s where I found myself this morning – wondering what I would do if suddenly my business was rocked by an event of the magnitude of Sandy. Or worse yet, what if I was seriously injured or killed unexpectedly—would my business continue on and how? This is a common concern of business owners everywhere.

Therefore I want to ask you this important question today: What backup plan can you put in place so your business can survive and thrive even in the worst of times?

Here are a few suggestions I have for you, in terms of developing a realistic business continuity plan:

  1. Know what your critical assets are. To stay afloat in a disaster to your business, you first need to understand what you stand to lose. Document all your physical and intangible assets, at least once a year. Your people are also part of your assets so understand who your critical teams are and what they should do in the event of a disaster.
  2. Protect your business assets at all times. Get your business assets insured from day one for the maximum amount you can. Make sure all personnel have access to health and life insurance so they too can protect their well-being and livelihoods.
  3. Have your business data backed up. Take the time to protect all data at all times with once a day computer hard drive and server backups to a cloud server. Use web-based programs whenever possible to ensure some level of work can continue if the corporate office is inaccessible.
  4. Get support from a business partner, or several. Your business networks can prove to be invaluable if you lose your physical assets. Reach out to your vendors and business partners to find out how they can help you while you recover.
  5. Have a plan for after the event survival. Make sure all personnel are safe as a number one priority. Have phone chains or local disaster recovery team leaders ready to keep the lines of communication open. Secure your business and all data before, during, and after the event. Participate in community rebuilding and obtain the needed services to protect human life and business efforts.

As my sincerest prayers and well-wishes go out to my friends, colleagues, and clients this week, my only hope is that they are able to get through the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy by staying strong.