5 Steps To Beat A Blackout

Every employer should have a disaster plan. Here’s what you should do in case the lights go out

Written by Deena Waisberg

Every employer should have a disaster plan. Here’s five things you should do in case the lights go out.

1. Safety first: Consider safety before anything else. “Employees should keep flashlights in their desk, so they can see if the lights go off,” says Guy Robertson, senior planner at Vancouver-based Robertson & Associates. “There should be emergency lighting in the stairwells.” Advise employees to use the stairs, not the elevator, during a power outage (yes, some elevator systems will continue running, but on limited battery power). Consider a carpool arrangement, so that employees who are deprived of subway and streetcar service can get home

2. Think about a generator: A generator sounds like an essential disaster-planning purchase. But really it makes little economic sense for most businesses. “A diesel powered generator can be expensive, anywhere from tens of thousands of dollars to a few million,” says Graeme Jannaway, a Toronto-based business-continuity planner and owner of Jannaway & Associates. On top of the initial expense of buying a generator, business owners must also find space to store it and then pay for maintenance. Because most power outages last less than half a day, generator-related costs typically exceed any business losses.

3. Establish your business priorities: Prepare for disaster long before it strikes. “Determine which tasks are priorities and which are not,” advises Jannaway. “Perhaps you need to take orders daily, but don’t need to fulfill them immediately. Figure out what’s critical to your business.” Then, determine how to function with a skeleton staff and whether tasks can be completed off-site. Also, make sure staff know the chain of authority. Senior people should still function as senior people and should be easy to contact.

4. Take care of technology: Don’t fall victim to lost data because of computer crashes: purchase an uninterruptible power supply (a box that acts like a big battery) for your server. “This will buy you enough time to do a controlled shutdown,” says Jayne Howe, managing partner of Toronto-based business-continuity management consultants The Howe Partnership. Also, store data on your server and make a backup disk or CD at least weekly, allowing you to transfer your work to a battery-powered laptop. Invest in surge-protected power bars that prevent damage to your computers when electricity is restored.

5. Forward those faxes: If your building is shut down temporarily, redirect faxes and courier packages. Post a sign on the door indicating an alternate location for couriers to make deliveries and arrange with your telco to redirect your fax number to another machine, perhaps at home.

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com