MainSpring transformer fire in FloridaHurricanes, meals ready to eat (MREs) and 24-hour media blitzes. That’s what comes to mind every year at this time. Engraved on my brain are the words June is the start of hurricane season. From September 11 to Katrina, my social and professional life circulated around disasters. The Weather Channel was my personal scheduler. That’s the job description for an American Red Cross spokesperson. I loved it.

Despite years of spouting “preparation” messages on TV, radio and in print, it hasn’t sunk in for many. FEMA estimates that 40 percent of businesses don’t bounce back after a disaster and many are not prepared for an incident. And by prepared they generally mean the following:

  • Continuity of operations (CONOPS) plan
  • Disaster recovery plan
  • Evacuation plan

I get it. Hell, I worked for both the Red Cross and FEMA and despite the daily reminders, I personally do not have an emergency supplies kit, a home evacuation plan or even a fire extinguisher. I can hear the screams on the last item…I’m getting a few this weekend.

So why am I sharing my warts? Because studies show that people are more apt to act if they know someone who has been affected by a disaster or after it happens to them. I don’t recommend the latter, so I’m sharing what happened to our firm last week.

On Thursdsay, a transformer caught fire outside our MainSpring Support Centre in Florida. Nobody was hurt, but it took down the support system for a few thousand workers and businesses who rely on our team daily. Fortunately, we had a CONOPS in place to respond.

We pulled out our playbook, consisting of processes and procedures for each team and stakeholder. Within minutes we were able to account for the safety of all personnel and key assets, mobilized our teams to pre-set locations to get back to work and alerted local responders to address the incident. Let me repeat that…minutes, not hours. So what’s the big deal?

According to the SBA, small businesses (SMBs) average losses of $3,000 per day in the wake of a disaster. Symantec conducted a study that found the mediam cost for SMBs for just IT downtime alone is $12,500. This does not include the costs of recovering lost data, loss in customer satisfaction or retention, legal fees and insurance premiums. Meanwhile, organizations selling fear and uncertainty products like insurance companies and risk assessments estimate that business interruption is the top threat facing companies this year. So why do studies show that 40 percent of business leaders are not prioritizing preparedness and that 70 percent of SMBs still don’t have a plan?

Because we’re focused on other things. Not all of us are candidates for National Geographic’s Doomsday Preppers show, stockpiling supplies in an underground safe room. We’re waiting for it to hit close to home. The reality is that most of us won’t prepare until something happens to us or to someone we know.

Now you know someone. I encourage you to put plans in place now, even if it’s a draft, to secure your people, your business and peace of mind. Reduce your risk, save yourself money and make use of the technology and processes around you to simply your response during times of chaos. As we used to say at the Red Cross, there’s no such thing as a small disaster. Disasters of any size can be equally devastating. Preparation is often the difference.

Now excuse me while I peer pressure myself to getting a fire extinguisher for home. Have a great start to your week and check out these resources for businesses from my alma mater. If you have a trusted IT partner, work with them to right fit a plan that works for you.

Resources for you and your organization

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