When it comes to emergency preparedness, business owners are faced with special and unique challenges. They not only need to think about the safety and security of their business and products, but also the safety of their employees. Often, some businesses are directly involved in the emergency services or supplies provided at the time of a disaster. Other businesses must consider the hazardous materials they use or work with daily and how they would be affected in the event of a disaster.
The St. Charles Fire Department encourages all business owners to develop an emergency preparedness plan for their business and, if needed, work with City staff to coordinate and incorporate individual plans into the overall City emergency preparedness plan.
Most businesses will be able to use the same basic information about disasters and tips on emergency preparedness as included in the Emergency Preparedness Guide for Homes. A special checklist for businesses is available in PDF format. The Institute for Business and Home Safety and the Small Business Administration have also put together Disaster Planning Tools for the Business Owner. The kit is specifically designed to help business owners identify hazards they may face, plan for and reduce the impact of disasters on their business, keep their doors open after a disasters, and provide advice on insurance, supplies, and steps to make the business more disaster resistant.
Following are some general guidelines, as posted on the web site for the American Red Cross. For more information or assistance in preparing a customized emergency preparedness plan for your business, please contact the St. Charles Fire Department at (630) 377-4457. A guide to assist businesses in preparing their own plan is also in the works and will be posted here soon.
General Rules of Thumb, from the American Red Cross web site
Keep phone lists of your key employees and customers with you, and provide copies to key staff members.
If you have a voice mail system at your office, designate one remote number on which you can record messages for employees. Provide the number to all employees.
Arrange for programmable call forwarding for your main business line(s). Then, if you can't get to the office, you can call in and reprogram the phones to ring elsewhere.
If you may not be able to get to your office quickly after an emergency, leave keys and alarm code(s) with a trusted employee or friend who is closer.
Install emergency lights that turn on when the power goes out. They are inexpensive and widely available at building supply retailers.
Back up computer data frequently throughout the business day. Keep a backup tape off site.
Use UL-listed surge protectors and battery backup systems. They will add protection for sensitive equipment and help prevent a computer crash if the power goes out.
Purchase a NOAA Weather Radio with a tone alert feature. Keep it on and when the signal sounds, listen for information about severe weather and protective actions to take.
Stock a minimum supply of the goods, materials and equipment you would need for business continuity.
Consult with your insurance agent about precautions to take for disasters that may directly impact your business. Remember, most policies do not cover earthquake and flood damage. Protect valuable property and equipment with special riders. Discuss business continuity insurance with your agent.
- Keep emergency supplies handy, including . . .
- Flashlights with extra batteries.
- First aid kit.
- Food and water for employees and customers to use during a period of unexpected confinement at your business, such as if a tanker truck over-turned nearby and authorities told everyone in the area to stay put for an extended period.
For additional information on emergency preparedness, please contact the Fire Department at (630) 377-4457.