What’s Your Best Plan for the Worst?

By Ryan Eudy

Experts estimate that nearly half of all businesses affected by a disaster never reopen. Those odds are alarming, especially when you consider those businesses likely had crisis plans and they just didn’t stand up in a real-world scenario. What’s more alarming, though, is that it doesn’t take a full-scale natural disaster to land your company in major existential crisis. It takes just one person, and that person could be a loyal employee who means well.

Skeptical? Consider this true story, overheard in my office: “The network manager at my last job had a fatal heart attack. It was such a tragedy! No one saw it coming, and so no one knew as much as he did about the maze he had pieced together to keep things running. With him around, our network actually worked. But with him gone, it might as well have been strapped together with duct tape. When something went wrong, we were down for hours. It took us all a long time to recover from the shock and the fallout of that loss.”

Don’t let this happen to you. Whether triggered by a single person, an act of war or a natural disaster, your organization’s crisis plan needs to be thorough, insightful and fully supported. To achieve this, you need input from employees in all departments, at all levels of your organization. Limit planning to leadership levels, and you miss out on perspectives that can make a real difference in business continuity, documentation of critical functions, and overall plan effectiveness.

Here is a full list of all-level crisis planning advantages:

  • You’ll more effectively reduce risk, control damage, and save lives;
  • You’ll have help identifying disasters and responses, from many viewpoints;
  • Your resulting plan will be more thorough and clear;
  • You’ll create easier-to-remember roles and instructions for everyone on staff;
  • Your walk-throughs and drills will be taken more seriously;
  • You’ll reinforce the value of everyone’s contribution, every day and in crisis; and
  • You’ll create a more prepared and crisis-aware culture, not false comfort.

Now that you understand the value of all-level participation in crisis planning, you’re probably puzzling over how to go about involving your entire staff. The first step is basic education around crisis management, to give everyone a baseline understanding. Online video training is an efficient, cost-effective method for this step. Through programs will disseminate information in small, digestible bites and use approachable, non-technical language. This keeps interest up and can also help improve retention.

As for content, look for education that addresses what happens before, after and during a crisis. Make sure training also covers emergency response, crisis communications and IT disaster recovery. These key elements will help you keep your business running, even if you’re doing it from a temporary shelter with a skeleton staff and sirens blaring.

Once your staff has a handle on basics, get them together to talk through potential hazards: natural, manmade and technological. Capture the scenarios identified and run them through a business impact analysis. Consider details like the time of day something might happen, and how long the disruption in operations might last. A power outage of minutes is not at all the same as one that lasts for longer than a day – unless maybe you’re an online retailer and those minutes are on Cyber Monday.

Crisis planning may seem overwhelming. But remember, if you do it my way, you’re not alone. By inviting more employees to participate, you have more minds working on the task. You also have plenty of supporting resources, including Homeland Security, FEMA and preventive maintenance guidelines to assist you in creating the most bulletproof, waterproof, invincible plan possible.

Plus, when you’re done with your plan, it won’t just be leadership who feels confident and prepared. You’ll have an entire workforce that’s empowered, knowledgeable and ready to rise to the occasion if disaster strikes.


Ryan Eudy is CEO of ej4, an award-winning e-learning company.

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