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MINIMAL DISASTER PLANNING

If you are thinking that your store is located in the center of the nation far from the chance of hurricanes and there are no known fault lines for you to worry about, please do not think these articles do not apply to you.  Tornadoes have happened on every continent and in every state.  New fault lines are discovered.  And, who can predict acts of aggression?  Plan now what you will do to carry on "business-as-usual" or to safely evacuate your store and what will determine which you will do.

Commerce
If your store has enough natural light, will you continue to do business during temporary power outages?  What changes would your business face in a severe disaster or a direct hit by a tornado to your area?

If you are in a mall does the mall or leasing company have a policy concerning loss of power or disaster that affects the surrounding area?  Is business continuance up to the store owner?  If commerce is not permitted, are you required to clear the store immediately?  How will you do that?  Who is going to search for staff and customers and how will they leave the store? 

If you continue "business as usual," how will you do it?  Will you accept credit cards?  Debit cards?  Checks?  Who has a key to open the cash registers manually?  Will all registers remain open or just a register at the main store entrance/exit?  Contact your bank card processor now to  learn what their requirements are for manual processing.  You may need a credit card imprint machine.  Manual processing of credit transactions usually costs more.  Are you willing to pay the higher processing fees?  Does your store have a land phone line?  What is your procedure for reimbursing your employees for personal cell phone minutes used for the store's business if the store's phone system fails?

Do you know the procedures your bank requires for manual processing of checks?  In Texas, a record of a customer's id (Driver's License or other photo ID) is required for the contract between check writer and business to be complete.  Check with your banker to be sure your procedures are the most efficient for all involved.

Do you have 2-part, pre-numbered sales ticket books?  Do your employees know how to complete a manual sales ticket?  Do you have calculators for everyone?  Do you and your employees know the current sales tax rate for your area and how to calculate it? 

Who will enter the sales into the computer system when power is restored?  If your sales are recorded at the SKU level, are the numbers printed on the merchandise tag legible so that they can be entered on the hand-written sales ticket?  Do your employees know what to record? 

Reporting
After an incident has happened, who will you report it to?  Do you have the following phone numbers or contact information in multiple safe places?

* Your local police and firefighters.  Always have direct local numbers for both police and firefighters included in your emergency numbers.  In a disaster, 911 lines may become over used and the system may crash.  Try the direct local numbers for immediate help if the 911 system is busy.
* Your employees phone numbers and their emergency contacts
* Your insurance agent.  A good time to ask you agent what you will need to file a claim is now when you aren't emotionally shaken.  Many agents have pre-printed forms that ask all the questions or list what the agents may require photos of or what kind of documentation is needed.  If there are documents or pictures that you can put together now, you'll be that much further ahead when you must deal with a disaster.
* Your banker.
* All service providers for your store. That includes the company that maintains the plants, cleans the store, or provides indoor plants.

Keep this information as a packet in multiple places so you can find it.  Keep one such packet in your safety deposit box with your back-up discs and at least one other packet in a fireproof, water proof portable container.  Zip-Lock bags are good to use as an extra measure of protection against water damage.

Emergency supplies to have on hand (recommended by the US Government at ready.gov)

  • Building plans (up to date)
  • Insurance policies
  • Bank records
  • Food: at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food and a can opener
  • Paper cups, plates and plastic utensils
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Basic tool kit
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle
  • Dust masks
  • Moist towelettes
  • Blankets
  • Garbage bags, plastic sheeting and duct tape

Miscellaneous
After the event has happened or when the tornado is coming down the street towards your store is not a good time to be thinking about a computer system backup. A computer system backup is easy to overlook on a day to day operations basis. Many people use on-line systems and feel they don't need a back up.  I recommend that you complete an additional backup regularly.  If your system does not backup on line, do a complete system backup every week. If your system regularly backups online, do a disc back up once a month. Do not store the tapes or disks in the store-not even in the fire proof file cabinet or safe.  It may be fire proof, but not tornado proof. Also, occasionally practice restoring the system from the back up you just made - if not the whole system, at least one or two files. This helps both ensure that the backup actually works and that you know the correct procedure for restoration.

Do not re-write over reusable discs. Spend the extra money to use system back up discs one time only. Set a particular day to back up and do it. Then put the backups in a safe off-site storage such as a safety deposit box. If you always back up every Monday, for example, you may lose a week's worth of transactions, but not 50 weeks. It's worth the time it takes especially if you later need it.  Replace back up media at least every other year. Always keep the last 2 backups stored off-site. And don't forget any other computers in the store. Make sure customer data is also backed up. It's just good common sense.





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