As a business owner, you face many challenges. These can include such things as competition, rising costs, regulations, economic ups and downs, and much more.

There’s one challenge, however, you may have overlooked — an event that could interrupt the operation of your business. Depending on the location of your business, the event could be a fire, flood, earthquake, tornado, or even something as simple as a power outage. Then there are threats such as a hazardous materials spill, terrorism, workplace violence, mechanical breakdown, supplier failure, or a cyber attack.

Just as you built your business plan, it’s critical that you also create a disaster plan. A disaster plan lays out the steps you will take now, and in the time of a disaster, to make sure you can quickly get your business up and running again.

A solid disaster plan would include the following:

Identify possible threats
Your business, or one of your business locations, could be in a fire or flood zone. It could be located in the Midwest or South and subject to tornados — or on the coast and in the line of potential hurricanes. List the potential threats so your preparations can include how you would address each of them.

Determine what assets are at risk
The most obvious risks include your people, property, operations, supply chain, systems/equipment, and information technology. The less obvious, but still important, risks would be your business reputation, compliance with regulations that apply to your business, contractual obligations, and even the environment.

Measure the impact of a disaster
The result of these types of events could be casualties, property damage, business interruption, loss of customers, financial loss, or environmental damage.

Once you have made these lists, you should determine the functions within your company that would have to be restored in case of a disaster — and in what order.

Most businesses put communication at the top of the list. Having the ability to
communicate with customers, partners and vendors is vital to getting your business operational again. Even the Department of Homeland Security advises that “a high-availability communication system is the basis for disaster preparation and recovery.”

Fortunately, if your business is using Internet protocol (IP) communications, including VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) or IP telephony, it is in a position to restore its communications very quickly. VoIP systems provide a number of advantages in times of disasters.

In the article “IP Communications is Transforming Business Continuity Planning,” on Continuity Insights, Michael Croy and Richard Zimmerman state, “IP communications technology supports a number of applications and features that enhance day-to-day business productivity. In the event of a business interruption, these same features also reduce the time frame for return to productivity.”

Here are some of the features they present on why this is true:

  • Employees have access to voice messages from anywhere even if — in the event of a power failure or severe storm, for example — phone systems are down and the office is closed.
  • Everyone in your business can still conduct inbound and outbound communication because they have the ability to log onto any networked telephone and be recognized by the system. Calls can be automatically routed to any extension or to a cell phone. This keeps your business communicating even if your facilities are closed or inaccessible.
  • Conduct “business as usual.” Employees can plug their phones in anywhere with a dial tone, log in, and work from their “normal” business extension. They can also access the information they need from the office phone system, including directory or customer information. With this information, they can communicate with customers and co-workers just as if they were in the office.

Not being prepared for a business interruption, regardless of the cause, can prevent you from getting your business up and running again quickly. It’s important to have a written plan and to have the IP telephony systems and features that will help you shorten recovery time. This preparation will reduce the losses that come with an interruption of your business operation.