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wildfire

First Fidelity offers tips to prepare for fire, drought season

As the fire and drought season in Arizona continues, the risk for businesses and the importance to be prepared is higher than ever. Recent research shows that small businesses are particularly vulnerable with only 38 percent having an emergency or disaster preparedness plan, 84 percent don’t have natural disaster insurance and 71 percent don’t have a back-up generator in case of power outage.

“Fires and droughts can catch any business off guard,” said Kevin Sellers, executive vice president for First Fidelity Bank in Arizona. “Having a business continuity plan is a smart first step when preparing for the worst.”

First Fidelity Bank shares advice with other business owners about ways business plans can be set up or improved during natural disasters.

Have a crisis plan. Oftentimes, natural disasters like droughts and fires cloud good judgment, especially when an entire business is at stake. However, it is important to have a plan in place so next steps can be smooth and well planned out. Anytime your business may be impacted, you can easily refer to your plan and make adjustments accordingly. For example, if your business is in immediate danger, refer to your plan for key messages outlined that you can share with employees and the public if needed. It is also beneficial to have next steps planned out when dealing with insurance companies. If your business is severely damaged, you can begin working with your insurance company to make arrangements to rebuild.

Have a communication plan. A key part of your crisis plan is communication. Develop key messages you would share with your employees and fellow staff members. Also, establish a communication pyramid among leadership to ensure effective and coordinated communication. Use forms of social media like Facebook and Twitter to give updates to employees and customers since phone lines can be affected. Be honest and upfront about the state of your business and provide information that will help them know what to expect as your company regroups after a disaster. Make sure to notify your company’s bank and let them know of your situation. Current business, like loan payments, may be able to be put on hold if necessary. Also, talk to your bank to learn about loan options in case your business needs repairs after a natural disaster.

Use additional servers to back up data. During a natural disaster, it is not an ideal time to worry about information being lost. Plan ahead and store sensitive information in more than one place. Electronics and servers can be severely damaged so be sure to have all data stored on an additional server. Sensitive company data on the loose puts a company at risk for fraudulent activity. Looters can easily gain access to company credit card numbers, social security numbers and other highly sensitive data. Use flash drives to keep track of this type of data. These can be easily transported and kept safe during natural disasters.

Have a plan for payroll. In case a natural disaster interferes with the payroll process, have a plan in place to continue paying employees. Since each company has a different payroll system, a back-up plan will be a case-by-case basis. Options include working with insurance to collect the money for payroll, fronting the money to employees or cutting paper checks if the direct deposit system is down. The Society for Human Resource Management offers helpful information to make sure employers know the guidelines for paying employees during natural disasters. Visit www.SHRM.org to learn more about payment requirements for various types of employees. Be sure to contact your company’s bank and notify them of a change in payroll. Most banks will keep an extra close watch on fraudulent activity so any significant change in payment methods could send up a red flag and complicate the process.