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Business Preparedness

A major disaster could threaten the survival of your business. Even a minor disaster could hurt your bottom line. There are steps your business can take to be prepared. You may or want to create a full-scale preparedness program or some simple steps to protect your business. Either way, we’re here to help.

We encourage businesses to think of all the hazards they may face. Oregon has windstorms, wildfires, floods and winter storms. It is expected that a major earthquake will occur. Cybercrime and other human-caused problems are also dangerous to businesses.

The physical damage from a full-fault Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake will occur west of the Cascades. However, every area of Oregon will be affected by the potential loss of fuel supplies and the unprecedented requirements for emergency response. Businesses need to be aware of the statewide impacts, and plan for how they will respond.

There are many things you can do that will increase the odds of your business surviving a disaster. Some of these require little time or money, others can be done as resources permit.

Know Your Hazards

Make a Plan 
  • Take ten minutes to complete the Preparedness Checklist for Businesses (EnglishSpanish,​ Russian,​ Vietnamese)​. This will help you identify the most important areas to focus on.
  • Make a plan. Using the Preparedness Scorecard for Business information or another planning template, make a simple or in-depth plan for what your business will do related to employees, computers and data, facilities and inventory. The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety; Federal Emergency Management AgencyAmerican Red Cross Ready Rating program and the Small Business Administration all offer comprehensive materials to make a plan that will fit the needs of your business.
  • Share your plan. Who else needs to know what you plan to do following a disaster? Talk with employees, suppliers, customers or others about your plan. Discuss with your accountant or attorney if appropriate.
  • Make sure you have paper copies of critical information. For example, employee contact information, insurance information, your emergency plan and contact information for critical clients, suppliers or service companies.  If you do not have an Internet connection, phone service or electricity, you will not have access to electronic or online records.
  • The more you know about the emergency plans of your community, your suppliers and your employees, the more easily you can ensure that your own plans fit into the larger picture. Reach out to your local emergency manager to find out more. 
Prepare Managers
Prepare Employees
  • Train employees. Consider cross-training for critical functions. First aid and other classes that build skills useful in a disaster could be important. The Red Cross, FEMA and others offer low or no-cost options.
  • Talk to your employees about their emergency plans at home.  Plans should include arrangements for pets, infants and young childrenand seniors when appropriate. 
  • Encourage your employees to be 2 Weeks Ready. You will need your employees to return to work quickly. Companies experienced in disaster report that employees will rarely return to work until they know their loved ones are provided for. If your employees are 2 Weeks Ready, they will be able to return to work much more quickly.
  • Consider providing emergency preparedness supplies or equipment instead of other items for gifts, bonuses or prizes. The Red Cross and other suppliers offer many options.
  • Help employees think through what they would need to get home or to work in the event of a Cascadia earthquake.  A sample survey you can adapt for use will provide a baseline for assumptions about employees getting to work or home after a Cascadia earthquake.  
Prepare Supplies
  • Collect emergency supplies – Make sure you have flashlights and extra batteries, a first aid kit, water, a NOAA weather radio, tools, a fire extinguisher, sanitation supplies, water and some non-perishable food onsite in case you are unable to leave your business.  For better preparation, anticipate a worst case scenario that includes no power, no Internet, no phone service, no running water or restroom facilities available. Determine what level of supplies you can keep at your business. 
Prepare Building(s)
  • Mitigate risks – Different hazards require different preparation. FEMA provides information on how to mitigat​​e risks from all hazards. Earthquake risks can be limited by using these detailed instructions to secure your space. 
  • Make sure you have paper copies of critical information – for example, employee contact information, insurance information, your emergency plan and contact information for critical clients, suppliers or service companies. If you do not have an Internet connection, phone service or electricity, you will not have access to electronic or online records.
  • In the case of a Cascadia earthquake, sewer and water systems may be damaged. If people are sheltering in place at your business, consider an inexpensive and effective system to deal with sanitation issues. 

Each disaster will require a different response. The planning you do will help you to sort out what needs to happen. Even if you haven’t been able to plan​, we’ve included information that will help you know what you need to do in the first two minutes, two hours, two days and two weeks following a disaster.  Some of these tips relate specifically to a catastrophic Cascadia earthquake. Most apply to a range of disasters.

First 2 Minutes

  • Check for injuries – your own and people around you.
  • During an unexpected disaster, an adrenalin surge will spread through your body. You may experience distortions in time, vision, hearing and other senses. You may experience a temporary state of not feeling pain, which could mean you aren’t aware of an injury that needs attention. You may lose control of bowels or bladder as the body shuts down any system that isn’t necessary to survival. When the adrenalin surge ends, you may collapse in exhaustion. These are all normal responses and may be seen in any of the people caught in the event. 
  • Help yourself and others with critical needs – for example, injuries or shock.
  • Assess damage to the building. Decide whether to leave or stay is best. Determine safest routes to get out. Following an earthquake, most people feel a strong compulsion to get outside as soon as possible.
  • Implement any evacuation plan. Determine how you will account for everyone who leaves.
  • Determine if there were customers and/or suppliers or others in the building to account for who will not be on lists of employees. 
  • Decide what emergency supplies and critical business materials should be taken out of the building if you are evacuating.  Put someone in charge of the items.   
  • Be ready for aftershocks following an earthquake. Do not stand under or near things that could fall on you. 
  • Text your status to loved ones, hopefully through your pre-arranged out of state contact.
  • Turn off water at toilet and hot water heater to prevent contaminated water from coming in.
  • ONLY if you smell gas leaks, turn off the gas.  If you do not SMELL a leak, don’t turn off the gas.  A gas leak has the smell of rotten eggs. 

First 2 Hours

  • Provide first aid as needed within your group.
  • In an earthquake, be ready for aftershocks. Do not stand under or near things that could fall on you. 
  • The adrenalin surge caused by an unexpected disaster (earthquake, fire, shooting) will usually be followed by exhaustion as the threat passes. This may be a factor in rallying people to action. Those who have experience in deep breathing exercises will find the technique helpful to restore clear thinking and reactions. 
  • If you are in a situation where you are trying to rescue others, remember that rescuers can become the next victims. Work with your group to do what is necessary in the safest way possible.
  • Go through your list of employees to ensure everyone is accounted for. Try to account for customers, vendors or others who may have been onsite as well.
  • Talk to employees, customers, vendors and others who are onsite. Try to figure out the best approach to keep people as safe as possible, as well as help them plan for how to get to a place where they can stay longer-term if they aren’t able to make it home.
  • If you must shelter-in-place, assess the best options for a safe shelter that allows your group to stay dry and at a comfortable temperature.  Create or build shelter if needed. Prioritize who will spend time in the shelter based on physical condition and needs of group members.
  • Change into heavier clothes, shoes and gloves if available and appropriate.
  • In case of an earthquake, take from your emergency kit, or make from fabric, a dust mask. There will probably be a lot of particles, smoke or dust in the air.
  • Help your group to decide if they are going to stay where they are for some period of time or if they are going to attempt to get home or to a longer term shelter. Determine if the group has maps, or knowledge of the area, to help make the trip in case roads and bridges are unusable.
  • Text your status again if you haven’t gotten through. Conserve your cell battery as much as possible.
  • Assess what resources your group has access to – water, food, lights, heat, first aid supplies, maps, skills and knowledge of group members, etc.
  • In case of an earthquake, decide what your group will do as a replacement for non-working toilets. Do not flush water down!
  • Beware of exposure. The shock of a disaster may make it harder to be aware of how cold or hot you are getting. Try to make sure your body isn’t having to work any harder than necessary to keep your body temperature in a safe zone.  Help your group to be aware of their condition as well.
  • If you are getting cold and you have something that is a source of heat (heat packs, warmed rocks, other) place under your arms. There is a major artery there. This will warm the blood going through your body and help you stay more comfortable.
  • If you are getting cold and you have no source of heat, create insulation between you and the cold. Wrap layers of newspaper around your torso and tape together. Wad up paper, put in a plastic garbage bag, and pull bag up over your legs and seal with tape. Avoid dampness. 
  • Beware of dehydration. It is important to drink fluids. If your group has emergency kits with water filters and/or supplies of water, they will be able to do this with less worry about how to stretch a scarce resource.
  • Implement your Business Continuity Plan, taking pre-planned actions to protect your most critical business functions.
  • Determine what assistance will be needed to carry out the actions in the Business Continuity Plan. Starting with the employees you are able to communicate with, decide what aspects of the work can be done given current conditions. Coordinate plans for meeting onsite at a later date/time if people are going home to check on conditions there prior to coming back to work. 
First 2 Days
  • Implement your emergency business plan for contacting employees, protecting data, managing the company and re-establishing supply lines of needed materials and products. Remember, if the disaster has overloaded systems, it will be easier for a text message to go through than a telephone call.
  • Gather copies of insurance policies and other important papers that you will need to file claims, document losses and revise contracts and agreements.
  • If health services are not available, remember that even small cuts and abrasions may become infected without hot running water and soap to keep wounds clean, or antibiotic cream and bandages to protect from bacteria. Do everything possible to care for wounds the best that you can. 
  • Continue to expect aftershocks following an earthquake. Do not stand under or near things that could fall on you.
  • Re-assess damages after any aftershocks that occur. Areas that seemed fine before may show problems following an aftershock. 
  • Begin to clean up the damage from the disaster. Any items that include chemicals should be handled carefully. Don’t throw away chemicals that could interact in the same bag and create dangerous gases.    
  • If the disaster impacts garbage service, be careful how you clean up. Use a separate bag for food or anything else that can decay and smell. Heavy duty contractor trash bags are the best to use.  
  • Move the bags with chemicals and things that may spoil as far away from people as you can. Try to keep the bags as protected as possible, in the event garbage service does not resume for weeks or longer.
  • Items that are broken or smashed but will not smell and do not contain chemicals can be gathered and set aside until garbage pick-up resumes.  
  • Be very careful while cleaning following a major disaster. Remember, a small injury that might have been an inconvenience could cause serious problems in the absence of health care. Work slowly and carefully. Beware of aftershocks following an earthquake.
  • If possible, contact your insurance company for assistance and to file a claim. If you don’t have telephone or Internet service, take electronic pictures of damage for later use.
  • If you are sheltering in place and first responders are still overwhelmed or unable to reach you, continue to work with your group to stay hydrated, reduce exposure, address injuries and stay calm. 
  • If you have people sheltering in place at your business, continue working on plans for how they will be able to get home, or to a place they can stay until things improve.
  • Continue to improve your shelter in place conditions as you are able to.  Reinforce shelter. Reassess the resources you have and how you will allocate them over the next period of time.  Reach out to others for help. 
  • Talk with other business owners in your area and see if there are ways to combine efforts and make everyone’s recovery go more smoothly.
  • If water and sewer systems are damaged, personal sanitation will be a challenge.  There are inexpensive and effective ways to deal with the issue.
  • In the case of a major disaster, it is inevitable that many rumors and half-truths will be spread. Only make important business decisions on the basis of information coming from authorities and trusted sources.  
First 2 Weeks
  • Continue implementing your business emergency plan. 
  • Use the information you’ve gathered on the status of your employees to revise your plans if needed. Determine what you can accomplish with the employees who are able to work during this time.
  • Assess and prioritize what resources you have available for use, including human and financial resources.
  • If there have been serious injuries or deaths of employees or their loved ones associated with the disaster, implement your plan to respond to these or determine what you need to do in response.
  • Are there ways that you can partner with other businesses in your area, or other businesses in your industry, to get up and running more quickly? Reach out to business and community contacts who may be interested in working together to share facilities, supplies or employees. 
  • Reach out to government and community resources that may be able to help. The Small Business Administration provides a guide to services that can help businesses recover following a disasterTeam Rubicon helped businesses following Hurricane Sandy, and your local emergency manager will know about deploying this resource.  
  • The aftermath of a disaster is a difficult time to make decisions. You may wonder if you can reopen your business at all. You may invest too many resources in trying to reopen a business that is no longer viable. Reach out to trusted advisors to make sure that you are considering all your options. 

There are many variables that will affect the recovery of your business. ​A recovery guide based on the experience of businesses after a disast​er will help answer the question “What should I do now?”  

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Recovery Guid​e provides many resources. The Internal Revenue Service provides videos and a Disaster Resource Guide for Individuals and BusinessesFor farms or ranches, the United States Department of Agriculture may have resources for recovery.