1. Know What the Risks Are in Your Area
Each province or region in Canada is subject to various hazards, including floods, wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, or blizzards and heavy snowfall. Identify the natural disasters most likely to affect your business and community, and stay up to date on weather reports and government advisories where you’re located.
2. Create a Disaster Recovery Plan
As a small business owner, you appreciate the necessity of thoughtful planning and strategizing. Apply the same approach to creating a disaster recovery plan for your business. Keep it simple and easy to follow. Do a risk assessment of the potential threats your business faces and outline the steps to be taken in different situations. For instance, have a list of actions if there’s a flood and another list if there’s a wildfire.
Detail what to do, who should do it, and how. Have contact information for all employees, business partners and providers, and emergency responders in your community. Identify another location to run your business if you need to vacate your commercial property temporarily.
Once your plan is drafted, print three copies, and store them in secured locations elsewhere (a fireproof safe, your home, and at a business partner’s or trusted friend’s place). Maintain a digital copy stored in the cloud that you and your employees can access on mobile devices or laptops.
3. Identify Your Business’s Mission-Critical Operations
As part of your disaster recovery plan, you’ll need to detail your company’s mission-critical systems. Think about your computing systems, servers, and software, and what to do if your network goes down and you have no internet access. This likely means you’ll need network documentation, which is like a blueprint of your software, data, computing systems and hardware your company uses. Having network documentation will make restoring your network and critical systems faster, easier, and possibly cheaper.
Also, establish the ability to remotely access your network so you and your staff can continue to manage the business online from wherever you are. If you have an IT technician on your team or an independent IT consultant who services your business, ensure they have remote access and are included in your network documentation and overall disaster recovery plan.
4. Create a Communications Strategy
Communication is the most critical activity for informing employees, suppliers, and customers during a crisis. Draft a crisis communications plan as part of your disaster recovery strategy. Include an updated emergency contact list with every possible way of reaching each employee by phone, email, and social media. Think of how you’ll keep employees, customers, partners, and suppliers informed, for instance, by email or text messages.
If your company uses any social media networks like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, include them in your plan. Also, think about the messaging you need to have in place for communicating to employees, partners and suppliers, customers, and the public. Lastly, ensure your employees have access to the communications plan and understand what roles they have to play within it.
5. Train Your Employees on What to Do
Ensure your employees know about your disaster recovery plan and how to access it. Train them on what to do if you cannot be contacted and they need to execute the plan. Also, ensure there is a first-aid kit and emergency supplies, including water, non-perishable food, a flashlight, and other necessities located at your place of business. The Canadian Red Cross provides an outline of what your company’s emergency kit should include.
6. Backup and Store Your Data at an Offsite Location
Always backup your data regularly and consistently and maintain copies on different servers at a secured, offsite location and in the cloud. It’s wise to automate your data backups, so you don’t need to worry about doing it yourself every day. Moreover, ensure you have cyber insurance as part of your overall policy. It covers costs associated with cybercrime involving your technology systems and customer data.
7. Take Preventative Measures to Protect Your Property
Be proactive and take steps to protect your commercial property from the threat of fire, flood, and severe weather. For example, ensure you have a 24/7 monitored alarm system that includes fire and water detection, install storm shutters over windows, and secure any inventory you have stored outdoors to prevent them from becoming projectiles in a windstorm.
8. Test and Update Your Plan Annually
Don’t merely create a disaster recovery plan; test it at least annually and update it frequently. Run through different scenarios with your employees and partners to see how a disaster might play out. That way, you can identify holes in your plan that need to be addressed. Testing the plan will also help ensure your employees understand it and what they need to do in an emergency.