Five Steps to Writing a Business Continuity Plan

Sandbagging around Moorhead homes along the Red River in 2009.

Sandbagging around Moorhead homes along the Red River in 2009.

Wondering how to keep your business afloat after a crisis? Take a page from Moorhead’s experience.

Minnesota's companion city to Fargo has been declared a federal disaster area 21 times since the 1960s, said Lt. Bryan Greene, Clay County emergency management director. That includes the trifecta of 2009, 2010 and 2011, when the Red River flooded each year, swamping homes and businesses. 

Greene has helped dozens of businesses write plans to continue operating after a crisis. Called business continuity plans, they're simple to write, he maintains. Here are five tips to get you started:

  1. Call your insurance agent and ask what your policy covers. If your building is destroyed, will it cover the cost of leasing another building? Will it pay employee wages while income isn't coming in? Write it down.
  2. Call your state and federal unemployment agencies. Will they provide unemployment wages to employees who temporarily lose jobs during a disaster?
  3. If you have to evacuate your work space, figure out where to meet. Some businesses pick parking lots of big churches or civic buildings. Also, compile contact information for all employees, and figure out who is suppose to make phone calls in case of disaster.
  4. Figure out how to communicate with the media. You might want a designated spokesperson to speak publicly about how your business is planning to forge ahead after a disaster.
  5. Store your plan in more than one place. A thumb drive is one option. The cloud is another.

When a disaster strikes, the government can only help so much, Greene said. They'll respond to the immediate crisis by saving lives and property. And the Small Business Administration will help with loans.

“Then, it's pretty much up to you, the business owner,” he said.