While disaster knowledge and prevention has significantly decreased the number of non-home structure fires since the 1970s, in 2013, there were still 118,000 U.S. fires that caused $2.7 billion in property damage, reports the National Fire Protection Association. Accidents and environmental threats can cause fires no matter how much prep work is done, making it essential for every business to have a disaster recovery plan.
While cloud storage recommendation website Top 10 Cloud Storage reported in 2015 that only a quarter of small-to-medium-sized businesses have such a plan in place, it’s simple for any sized business to start strategizing now. The site recommends conducting a business impact analysis to determine the most critical needs to get a business running again after a disaster, using a regularly scheduled backup of data that is stored off-site and creating a plan on what to prioritize regarding data recovery and working remotely.
The United States government recommends searching for vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the business structure that could exacerbate the effects of a fire, such as a lack of a fire sprinkler system. In the unfortunate case a fire does happen, take these steps to restore your business.
Mitigate the Situation
If a fire occurs while employees are at work, use the fire alarm to alert everyone to immediately evacuate and call public emergency services. Your employees should have already experienced monthly practice fire drills at work and know where the emergency exits are to get out quickly. You should not wait for elevators, so direct all employees to leave personal belongings behind and exit through the stairs.
For small fires, use a fire extinguisher in the building to quell the flames. In case of minor injuries, use an emergency first aid kit to tend to problems. If someone on your staff is trained in first aid or CPR, empower him or her to take charge and help. Take a head count of employees to ensure everyone is present and accounted for, and do not allow anyone back into the building until fire safety professionals have deemed the area safe. Act calmly and confidently to prevent panic from spreading among your staff, and wait in a safe, sheltered place for fire services to arrive.
Deal With the Aftermath
Consult with the fire safety service about when it’s safe to enter your business space. Call an insurance company to report the incident, and contact a professional fire restoration provider to clean the area and remove the harmful and unpleasant effects from smoke. Employees should not return to the worksite until it is properly disinfected by a professional. Leave wall and carpet cleaning to an expert, as you may spread soot around instead of removing it. As you are restoring the area, open windows to let fresh air in, but ensure the building is secure to prevent theft.
Clean plants with a damp washcloth, and bring them outside for air. Clean out refrigerators, and air them out to remove a smoky scent. Use rubber gloves when handling any object to prevent the oil from your skin from inflicting further damage to objects. Do not use any electrical items unless the fire safety professionals have deemed them safe.
Keep your business running by accessing valuable data from your cloud storage provider and instructing employees to work remotely while the physical office is being repaired. Another option is to set up a temporary office near the original location that is convenient to your staff. One option is to reach out to another business for help, and offer an exchange of services in return for space and tech equipment if yours is damaged. You may also contact the Small Business Administration to secure a low-interest disaster loan. Business New Daily reports the government agency loans up to $2 million to qualified businesses that have experienced a declared disaster.
Send a note to your customers and key stakeholders that transparently explains the accident, and assure them that your business and insurance company are working diligently to ensure a seamless transition during this time. Start preparing for the worst now, and you’ll be more likely to weather any disaster that comes your business’ way in the future.