Parker County emergency management officials provided information on the importance of having plans in place for disasters that affect businesses, including business continuity and recovery.
The information was presented as part of the East Parker County Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon, via Zoom meeting this week.
Emergency Management Coordinator Sean Hughes said it’s important to start continuity planning as soon as possible. Business continuity planning is a process to ensure that personnel and assets are protected and can function quickly in the event of a disaster.
“COVID is a very good opportunity in time to think about how your business continues — what happens if your business is impacted from a hazard. If you’re going to be away from your house for a week and you have five minutes to prepare for that, what are some of those things that you’re going to need to continue to do you business? Continuity is ongoing. We want you to constantly be thinking about the things that could affect your business and how you continue,” Hughes said. “This recent situation we find ourselves in, we’ve had to find new suppliers, we’ve had to find new ways to do business and those are things that when all of this is over, we want you to continue. Simple things like the loss of the internet in your business can be huge.”
Hughes said business owners should also include employees and sometimes even competitors in continuity planning.
“You do an internet search, you can find all types of business continuity. If you're a small business, your plan should be small and don’t be afraid to ask,” Hughes said. “The important point is that you start continuity planning today. It doesn’t have to be done all at once, you can do it over a period of time, but stay with it, that way you get that task done.”
Hughes said one of the difficult things is exercising the plan.
“You can imagine at a county level or city level this can get very expensive, some see it as not a good use of tax dollars, but the only way we can get better with our planning is if we actually exercise and test it,” Hughes said. “Create an exercise within your business, it’s not very difficult to do. Lock the doors and don’t find the keys — who else has keys to your building? Who else can get into your business? It may only be you. Another thing you can do is reach over and unplug the internet. Now what do we do? Do we tether it to our phone? Do we have a MiFi or someone else’s internet? Little simple things you can do regardless of the size of your business to test your plan.”
Hughes said another important thing is to have data backup that can be accessed quickly.
Aledo Mayor Kit Marshall, who also serves as the emergency management officer for Parker County, said recovery starts before the disaster ever happens.
“Recovery is really about people coming together to heal and get things right again on the way to returning to normal, even if it’s a new normal. I think everybody would agree that our new normal is never going to be what it was in January,” Marshall said. “So what is available to help you get back to work, to help your employees get back to work, to help you provide services? It’s really a framework that you create to make things happen.”
Marshall said the East Parker County Chamber of Commerce is vital to helping in the recovery process.
“The chamber has been very proactive in pushing information out to our businesses,” Marshall said. “Reaching out to the chamber, and the East Parker County Chamber has a foundation and they have provided some grant money for businesses — whether they’re chamber members or not — so that’s huge just in terms of knowing what opportunities are available. Your recovery plan is actually part of your [Continuity of Operations Plan] because it describes how work can be resumed after that disaster.”
Marshall said it’s important to have policies in place when requesting government funding, including insurance policies.
“The government doesn’t just show up and write you a check — you would be surprised how many people think that’s what happens,” Marshall said. “You need to review your insurance. It’s important to take a look at that and see if it really covers your needs.”
As far as funding opportunities, Marshall said businesses need to be in tune with the Small Business Administration. Marshall added that documentation is particularly important when seeking reimbursement especially from a governmental grant.
“If you had to show proof that you had an expenditure that was specifically related to whatever that disaster was that created a business stoppage, if you don’t have a receipt for that you’re probably not going to get reimbursed for it,” Marshall said. “One of the other things that’s really helpful is taking pictures. In the past I’ve taken pictures at my home of things that I wanted to be able to show I owned and so the same thing with your business. Any resources that you receive that are donated, you want to make sure and document that as well.”
Hughes and Marshall said more information about business continuity plans and recover plans can be found through the chamber of commerce, the Parker County office of emergency management, the SBA and FEMA.