In most cases, a business “disaster plan” collects dust on a shelf and is only taken out once a year to prove to the auditors that the company has one. Few plans, if any, actually work. Why? Most are too complex and become quickly outdated. Self-storage operators should take a simple approach to disaster planning, building a plan that doesn’t interfere with day-to-day operation.
Disasters come in many flavors—natural disaster, equipment malfunction, human malice, error or accident. The cause really doesn’t matter. In all cases, your disaster plan should include three essential parts:
- Preparation: The thoughtful process of identifying, assessing and grading potential hazards that could put business continuity in jeopardy.
- Management: The activities put into practice during and immediately following a disaster.
- Recovery: The activities assigned to management and staff to ensure an orderly resumption of business.
Preparation: Before the Disaster
While in the preparation stages of your disaster plan, take into consideration the following essential elements: employee training, a written checklist and annual auditing. Here’s what should be included in each.
Employee training. Employees need to understand what to do so they can make sure disasters that can be avoided—employee foul play or accidents, for example—do not happen. If a disaster does occur, each employee should know immediately how to react. Even if the disaster happens at night, on a weekend or a holiday, everyone should be prepared and understand their role and activities.
Checklist. The written checklist should fit your facility and operation. Each company has a different building structure with particular security elements. Flood, wind and fire controls can, in many cases, be foreseen by an attentive employee. Your requirements and protocol may differ based on local building and fire codes, of course.
Audit program. Designed by you, or an accounting or insurance professional, an auditing program provides you with pre-designed review practices. These should include:
- Facility protection of the exterior of the building, property and the perimeter fences or enclosures.
- Physical security components such as keypad door entry, video cameras, door locks, alarm systems, motion detectors, etc.
- Data backup of customer and company information from your computer system, including a “data-recovery test” to ensure the backup plan actually works.
- Procedural document review for the three stages of the disaster-preparation plan focusing on any changes to facilities, equipment and operations over the past year.
- Action plan with checklists must be kept up to date and redistributed to employees during the annual training session.
- Defined and assigned roles and responsibilities, including any updates or changes to your expectations for all staff members.
- An annual insurance review by a safety expert from your insurance company. In many cases, the insurance company will provide the safety engineer to assist in the writing and training process.
- An annual disaster drill. If you don’t test it, you cannot expect it to work.