The federal government's site provides a comprehensive resource for disaster planning for small businesses, including downloadable PDFs about how to go about creating an emergency response plan and a simple business continuity plan that includes information about defining team member roles and responsibilities, creating an emergency response team, planning for succession of management, and delegating authority.

The business continuity plan also includes a section about the need to define post-disaster interaction with external contractors and vendors and ensuring that customers are properly informed about the status of their project at the time of the incident.

The site also points out that companies should be able to redirect incoming telephone calls to a second call center or to a voice message indicating that the business is experiencing a temporary problem.

Specifically, the information technology section of the site covers the need to:

  • Compile an inventory of hardware (servers, desktops, laptops, wireless devices), software applications, and data.

  • Evaluate the potential for lost data and define the recovery point objective. Data restoration times should be confirmed and compared with the IT and business function recovery time objectives.

  • Have a strategy for backing up all critical digital information, as well as hard-copy records, and scanning paper records to create a digital format.

  • Have regularly scheduled backups from wireless devices, laptops, and desktop computers to a network server. And also back up the server.

  • Address the frequency of backups, the security of the backups, and secure off-site storage. Back-ups should be stored with the same level of security as the original data.

  • Identify critical software applications and data and the hardware required to run them.

  • Ensure that copies of program software are available to enable reinstallation on replacement equipment.

  • Prioritize hardware and software restoration.

The downloadable worksheets on the site can help companies evaluate their needs and create a plan for business continuity. —Nina Patel, senior editor, REMODELING.

More REMODELING articles about emergency preparedness:

Disaster Preparation: Tips and practices for disaster-proofing your business

Safeguarding Your Company's Financial Records: Tips from the IRS

Eyes Wide Open: Disasters are inevitable. Prevent, pre-empt, and prepare