We had such a great response from our last blog with Donna Gunter that we wanted to share her latest blog, which discusses 10 Things to Do to Create an Online Business Disaster Plan. Donna is just the best and she has some amazing advice for business owners who should think about unfortunate disasters that Mother Nature can easily bring upon us!
Online Business Disaster Plan
Please head over to Donna’s website for the original blog, which we have used below!
Being ready to implement my business disaster plan has become second nature to me, unfortunately. I’m an evacuee of Hurricane Rita in 2005 and Hurricane Ike in 2008. I also had a shelter in place in 2007 during Hurricane Humbert, in 2016 during the Toledo Bend Reservoir flood. And most recently in 2017 during Hurricane Harvey.
The hurricane evacuations were a hellish process, as was sheltering in place during Harvey. However, through it all, I emerged with very little damage to my home. Running from a hurricane and dealing with its landfall isn’t something I’ve ever had to do before. Nor is it something I’d ever like to do again.
However, as a solo business owner, I’m quite thankful that I have an online business. The fact that I own a virtual company and can operate from anywhere that there’s electricity and phone service has been of great help during these disasters. It was a primary factor in helping me reopen my business a scant four days after the landfall of Hurricane Rita when so many brick-and-mortar businesses were still shuttered for months after the storm. Likewise, I reopened only two days after the landfall of Ike.
Accepting that natural disasters are here to stay, here’s what I learned from my natural disaster experiences to help me create a business disaster plan that helped me get my business back up and running quickly:
1. Know the location of your vital papers.
You should be able to quickly put into a folder the following for you and your family:
- marriage license
- birth certificates for you and your children
- social security cards
- bank account information, including bank routing numbers
- driver’s licenses or state ID cards
- car title/mortgage info and insurance contact info
- house deed/mortgage info and insurance contact info
- flood insurance info, if applicable
- apartment lease or a copy of a utility bill and renter’s insurance contact info
- employee ID card
- health insurance cards
- list of prescription medications you take
- contact info for all of your medical care providers
If you have documentation of your home contents, bring that information as well. In a disaster, you’ll be asked to prove where you live and that you are who you claim you are. Especially when applying for disaster assistance. You may also have to initiate damage reports on property. So having those files at your fingertips will help you expedite the process.
Don’t count on this info being accessible in a safety deposit box. Your bank may be flooded, or you may not be able to access your bank because of power outages!
2. Have an online backup of all of your computer data.
I back up my computer in two ways– to an external portable hard drive as well as to an online backup service. Both are used because my files are my livelihood — I would be dead in the water without them — so I want to leave absolutely no room to lose my data!
I back up both my desktop and laptop PCs with unlimited backup available through BackBlaze. Rather than having to lug my desktop PC with me, I can simply access any file on it through my online backup system.
3. Create a file with vital contact information.
I keep all of my contact info stored on both my smartphone, as well as in my client management dashboard, 17Hats. For all of my passwords, I use both RoboForm, as well as Dashlane. Both offer apps as well as online access. I use both because some sites work more readily with one over the other.
You’ll also want to take along your children’s school contact info to be able to check on the current operating status of your child’s school, as well as local media website info. My lifeline in getting current information about my home city was through local websites, newspapers, television and radio stations.
4. Know the primary office/computer equipment that will be required to get your business up and running.
When receiving the mandatory evacuation order, I knew that to run my business, all I needed was my smartphone, my iPad, and my laptop. I rarely print anything, so even though I have a laser printer, I didn’t include it. I use PDFs for just about everything these days.
5. Know the location of your primary paper files for your clients/business.
6. Have a backup telephone plan.
After Hurricane Harvey, I canceled my landline phone service and now do everything on my cell phone. I use an app called Sideline that gives me a second number for my iPhone, which I use as a business number. I use my phone service through AT&T for the actual calls, although Sideline masks my actual mobile number and uses its number as the number that recipients see when I call them.
7. Have a backup Internet access plan.
You may be able to purchase Internet access at the hotel to which you evacuate, or it may be included as part of your lodging fee. Since I now have unlimited data on my phone, I can set up a hotspot for my laptop if I need it using my iPhone. However, I prefer to use the service of the hotel where I’m staying if I can.
8. Bring along adequate office supplies for a month.
I don’t really use many office supplies other than an occasional pen, pair or scissors or stamps/envelopes. I do, however, use my USB headphones all the time. The pair I purchased from Ear2Ear Headsets has an interchangeable jack so that I can go from USB to plugging them into a phone headset very quickly. I also pack several of my Apple earphones with a mic, as well.
9. Outline your office procedures to help you operate independently or be able to delegate tasks.
Instead of carrying your business operations info in your head or have it stored in various files across your computer, document all of your office procedures. Also document computer and client info, so everything you need is in one place. You can do this with any word processing or spreadsheet program and create lists, templates, or checklists. I enter this information into Evernote Premium or a free program like Trello. If you need a hand in creating these checklists and templates, check out my 30-Minute Marketing Plans.
10. Bring a digital camera to record the event and/or record damages to personal property.
I wish I’d had a digital camera to record all that I witnessed during my evacuation from Hurricane Rita (I now own a Canon Powershot A630 as well an an iPhone). My sister took tons of pics, but I would’ve loved to have had the same opportunity. More importantly, however, is the need for a digital camera to record damage to your home and property.
In a wide-spread disaster, it can be at least a month, usually more, before your insurance adjuster will be able to assess damages to your property. In the meantime, however, you need to start repairs. Things like placing a tarp on your roof, boarding up broken windows, removing downed trees from your house or yard, or cleaning your refrigerator of spoiled food. In many cases, your insurance will cover the repairs or food replacement, but you need to carefully document the “before” scenario in order to receive compensation for your loss.
Bonus Tips: Accessing Daily Services.
You may need to get your mail or contact your medical professionals during a natural disaster. Unfortunately, I have bad news for you. Neither mail service nor any type of UPS/FedEx delivery services will operate during a natural disaster, and they may take weeks or months to resume.
During Hurricane Rita, our post office was completely closed for almost 2 months, since it flooded. It took us another 2 months for them to set up temporary quarters that allowed us to get our mail. Fortunately, most of what I needed in terms of paying bills could be done online. And, in many cases, your payments will be delayed due to the disaster. You’ll need to check with your individual providers to see if that holds true for you.
If you cannot return to your home, your doctors and pharmacies cannot open for business either and you will probably not be able to contact them. You will need to call your health insurance company for advice if you need to see an out-of-the-area doctor in the interim, especially if you have a PPO service. In terms of prescriptions, I refill my monthly ones online with a pharmacy with offices throughout the south. I hate to tell you not to use a local pharmacy, but that local pharmacy will be useless if you live in an area prone to hurricanes, as I do.
Don’t let a natural disaster destroy your business. Take some time now to prepare your business disaster plan, and get back into business as soon as you can!
About the Author Donna Gunter
Best-selling author Donna Gunter works with successful business owners who are experts in their fields and established in their industry and are seeking a way to stand out from their competitors. Using her Ideal Clients on Autopilot System©, she helps them determine the exact strategies to generate more qualified leads and better-paying clients with automated systems.