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Disaster Preparedness and Your Laundry (Conclusion)

Once plan is in place, it’s time to train your personnel

CHICAGO — No business is immune to the effects of a fire, flood or other catastrophe but when the unthinkable happens, disaster preparedness will help an affected laundry focus on doing what’s needed to preserve its operations and reopen as quickly as possible.

“A disaster recovery plan is really your strategy that looks at potential risks to your business, whether it’s from natural disasters, manmade disasters,” says Robert “Bo” Steiner, director of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Illinois district office. “It’s basically that strategy that you put on paper that looks at what those risks are and how you will either mitigate any kind of adverse impacts, or the processes by which you’ll recover from something that happens in your business.”

(Part 1 of this article examined addressing risks common to your business, the important of insurance, and providing emergency plan access to your full staff. Let’s continue today by looking at communications, both inside your business and with your customers.)

Communicating with staff before, during and after a catastrophe plays a significant role in preparedness and recovery, Steiner says.

“(It’s about) having a phone tree or some other mechanism where you can easily communicate with your team to do everything from saying, ‘Hey, don’t come in to the office today,’ to ‘OK, here’s what happened, these are the next steps that we’re going to take.’”

You should also communicate with customers in some fashion, whether through social media or e-mail, to keep them informed of your store’s status.

“By overcommunicating, you build credibility with your team and with your customers because they understand what’s going on, they understand—to the extent you can share—what’s happened and why they may or may not have access to the facilities or the resources they’re used to, as well as a timeline for them to come back.”

With a plan in place, training personnel comes next.

“You have to have that training session with your team so they understand what they’re supposed to do. … It also gives you the opportunity to get feedback from the team: ‘We understand the business at this front-line level and these are some of the things this plan doesn’t address.’”

You can go through preparedness drills that involve taking physical actions but even having what Steiner calls a “tabletop exercise” can help a store owner and his/her staff talk through different scenarios and their individual responsibilities.

“Those conversations will identify areas where the plan needs work or areas where it’s really working well and you can see how it will work in real life,” he says.

A disaster supplies kit can prove useful in times of trouble.

“It’s things that the team that’s on-site would want to have in the event there’s some kind of disaster, and it’s consistent with things you might want to have at home: a battery-powered radio, flashlight, first aid kit, things that don’t take up a lot of space but give people the tools they need to be safe and deal with the emergency at hand.”

Steiner recommends keeping copies of important records like building plans and insurance policies in fire-resistant and watertight containers to aid in business continuity.

Aside from any operational precautions your store can take, you may also need to take precautions from a financial standpoint.

“Look at your cash flow, look at your reserves and think about whether you need to seek maybe a line or credit or something like that in advance of any disaster happening so that you’re prepared in the event something does happen,” Steiner says. “We all know that having access to a line of credit could be that thing to get you over the hump until you can get the business back up and running.”

If your store experiences a federally declared disaster (flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes and wildfires are examples), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the SBA “will be there to help,” he adds.

“From an SBA perspective, we make loans to small businesses and individuals to help them recover in the event they are victims of some kind of disaster,” Steiner says. “These are to help cover uninsured losses, loss of business due to the disaster. It’s something that not everybody is aware of but it’s an amazing resource. These are low-interest loans that can help a business weather a disaster.”

Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.

This article is based on an American Coin-Op podcast titled Having a Disaster Recovery Plan. To listen to this episode or other free podcasts, visit the Podcast Archive.