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Business planning for the unexpected

Business planning for the unexpected

Previously unforeseeable events such as lockdowns, natural disasters and cyberattacks are more foreseeable for businesses. Planning and a well-considered business emergency plan are essential for these emergencies and other events such as market downturns.

Risks and priorities

Identifying risks is an important part of business and contingency planning. Risks can include manufactured disasters such as a computer hacking or a cyber-security attack or natural risks such as hurricanes, earthquakes, or disease. Many risks depend on location and specific business operations.

Safeguards should deal with particular risks. Plans need to cover the greatest priority of customer, client, employees, supplier, and neighbor safety. Planning should involve evacuation and sheltering in place.

Identify the materials or supply that have the greatest significance and their location and vulnerability. Property, cash, and data usually have the highest priority.

Plan development

Plans depend on the type of business. These must be thorough and, for example, cover protection of employees in case of a natural disaster or secure business assets against natural disasters. There should be a plan for communicating with the public.

Data breaches and other cybersecurity attacks need coverage so that the business may stay operational. Planning should provide for the storing and backing up of all essential data at an off-site and secure location. Physical documents must be kept in a tamper and fire-proof safe and backed up with digital copies.

Plans need updated and assessed frequently. Evacuation plans and contact information should be current. Disaster kits need to be well-stocked and accessible. Designated employees should go through a disaster simulation each year.


Leadership is always important for business formation and planning. Plans should have an emergency communication policy for informing stakeholders.

Identify employees who can effectively manage operations or workers during an emergency. Specify who will be in charge, the next in command and emergency contacts. Update emergency contact information for all employees yearly.


All business apparatus, from software to fire extinguishers, should be kept up-to-date and tested repeatedly. Obtain sufficient insurance against hazards that cause the greatest danger.

Attorneys can help address legal issues that business confront in a disaster. They can help assure that contracts and other legal documents deal with these issues.