Have you ever known someone who refuses to get health insurance because they are convinced it will make them get sick? Or perhaps someone who will not apply for life insurance coverage because of a fear that it will cause an accident?

Indeed, many business owners resist planning for emergencies because of a belief that it will somehow increase the risks of a disaster actually occurring. However, equipping for an emergency is not “expecting” an emergency, but rather being prepared IF one should occur.

With that in mind, here are five major areas of concern, as well as tips on how to avoid problems on the front end and handle issues in the event it becomes necessary.

Data Back-Up

Since we’re discussing protecting your business, let’s start with protecting your business. In this age of technology, fewer things are more critical to the success of a business than its records and documents.

Fortunately, we have many more options for backing up important papers than simply storing hard copies in a filing cabinet. Even if you are not established with separate cloud storage (a wonderful idea, by the way!), some easy solutions to implement include:

  • Scan and email all non-sensitive documents to your email account
  • Transfer your electronic records to a portable flash drive
  • Keep a duplicate copy of everything in an off-site external hard drive

Smart Electricity

Another way to ensure you have a safer small business is by being smart about electricity. And this doesn’t have to be as large-scale as an overhaul of your internal wiring (although that may not be a bad idea, depending on the age of your building). Some simple steps to enact are:

  • Swapping out old, hazardous bulbs and installing energy-efficient light bulbs throughout
  • Ensuring you do not overload sockets with too many items
  • Making sure you have appropriate surge protectors in place to protect expensive office equipment
  • Keeping outlets and cords clean and free of dust that can cause a fire if a socket sparks
  • Unplugging all equipment when not in use – this not only limits your risk of fire or other damage when you are away from the office, but it also reduces your electricity bill by preventing energy drain!

Smoke Detectors

When it comes to detectors, simply having one is only half of the job: it also needs to work! Alarm systems are only as good as the power behind them, so make sure you perform regular checks of your smoke detectors (and any other detectors you choose to have: carbon monoxide, radon, etc.) throughout the year.

  • Ensure the wires inside the detector are connected to the proper receiver in the wall and that none of them become loose over time.
  • It can be tempting to simply disconnect the unit when it starts beeping that shrill alarm we all love to hate, but it’s beeping for a reason! Make sure you swap out the batteries whenever the detector alerts you and keep a spare set on standby.
  • Schedule a time in your calendar to test the detector and keep the appointment – it could just save your life and your business.

Regular Checks of Pipes and Plumbing

Speaking of routine exams, don’t forget about giving your pipes and plumbing a once-over every so often. This can be as simple as turning off and on your faucets to make sure there are no leaks and that water flow is not obstructed. Leaks are not only damaging to the internal structure of the building, they can also cost you a small fortune if left unaddressed.

Emergency Evacuation Plan

While the previous four areas dealt (mainly) with the protection of property, this safety measure is about protecting people and is the most important! Having a functional emergency evacuation plan can mean the difference between an unpleasant experience and a catastrophe, so don’t plan to fail by failing to plan.

Your small business’s emergency evacuation plan should:

  • Include a map of the building, with clearly marked stairs and exits, as well as directions on how to reach them;
  • List emergency phone numbers, including the fire station, the police station, and maybe even highly specialized groups (SWAT, etc.);
  • Have contingencies for parking and evacuation routes if driving away from the scene is not possible.

In terms of how to handle the plan, make sure to designate a point person who will be in charge in the event of an emergency, and then appoint a back-up. Review the plan with your employees and make sure they all understand how to protect themselves should the need arise. Finally, designate a rendezvous point for everyone to meet at during and/or following an emergency.

What other ways can you think of to include in your disaster prep for your business?

Jay Harris is a Home Depot sales associate in the Chicago suburbs and a writer on Home Depot’s blog. Jay’s interests in the home improvement arena include smoke detectors and alarm systems.