Disaster Preparedness: Is Your Organization Ready for the Next Storm? 

By: Debbie Clifton, CORT National Accounts Manager 

With the increasing global frequency of disasters, proper preparation is critical in any organization. How quickly you reestablish your operational capabilities is vital if you are to – both literally and metaphorically – weather the storm. While the occurrence of a natural disasters is unpredictable and may result in chaos and the destruction of property, if you have a contingency plan in place, you can protect both your employees and your bottom line.  

Create a Plan 

Adults brainstorming with post-its on a board

During my time with CORT, I’ve worked with several companies who have had to rebuild in the wake of a natural disaster, and the ones that were able to get up and running again most quickly where those that had disaster contingency plans. To create your own, break down the potential risks into categories and then prioritize the risks from there. For instance, a couple things you might consider are: 

  • Time: How long do you have to act in the case of a disaster? How quickly do team members need to get back up and running for your company to remain profitable? 
  • Space: Do you have office space available for your employees to work in the event of a disaster?  Are there methods in place to secure furniture for temporary spaces? Do you have an alternate place to store goods if your warehouse suddenly becomes inaccessible due to inclement weather? 

Assign Clear Responsibilities 

Your company’s plan should coordinate participation between responsible organizations and business partners, individuals and volunteers to ensure they are equipped to respond as needed. These relationships should be established well in advance, as the ability to move quickly and decisively in time of crisis is critical. Clearly define the role everyone – from your staff to business partners and vendors –will play in the event of a disaster. 

Train Your Employees  

Employees high-fiving after training

Creating a plan and assigning responsibilities is only half the battle when it comes to preparing for emergencies. The people with those responsibilities need to know how to carry out their tasks efficiently and effectively if your plan is to work. Training is therefore a critical component of any disaster plan – after all, there’s nothing like live practice to ensure that key tasks are firmly ingrained when the power goes out. 

Maintain and Update the Plan 

While training your staff is necessary to ensure all team members know what to do and how to perform their duties in an emergency, going through the exercises can also give you a better idea of what works and what doesn’t. You should occasionally run drills to maintain your plan and remind employees of their roles and responsibilities. And as an added bonus, you can use these dry runs as an opportunity to adjust your plan. It’s important to look at your plan as a living document and regularly update it as circumstances change. 

Don’t Forget Your Supply Chain 

Although your business continuity and disaster preparedness plan will likely focus primarily on how to continue immediate operations, you should also keep in mind what your organization would do if a key supplier were also impacted by the storm. If one of the links in your supply chain breaks, do you have a backup plan in place to fill the gap for an interim period?  

Monitor foThreats  

Safety cone in the middle of a road

Finally, the old adage “The best defense is a good offense” definitely holds true in the case of disaster preparedness. You need to be aware at all times of any storms or natural disasters that could impact your company’s ability to function. As such, make sure you’re constantly on the alert for incoming threats so you can respond quickly when necessary. 

Debbie Clifton is a National Accounts Manager at CORT Furniture Rental. She’s worked in the furniture rental space for over 25 years and specializes in helping businesses facilitate change in the workplace. She assists commercial real estate teams as they transform vacant spaces through the use of temporary furniture, and guides tenants and project management teams as they navigate times of growth and transition.