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Is Your Disaster Emergency Plan Missing These 8 Top Guidelines?

If disaster strikes, will you be ready? 

Don’t let a disease outbreak or natural disasters, like earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, floods, and snowstorms take you by surprise. Protect yourself instead by creating an effective emergency plan.

Create a Foolproof Emergency Plan for Your C-store 

It’s unlikely that you will feel 100% prepared in any emergency or disaster, but if you create an emergency plan ahead of time, you can protect both your employees and customers and eliminate unnecessary stress and confusion during an unforeseen event. Your c-store emergency plan may also save your business. 

Best Bet: The Institute for Business and Home Safety estimates that 25% of businesses don’t open again after a major disaster. When you create an emergency plan, you will increase the chances that your store will survive a disaster. 

Key: Creating an effective emergency plan includes formulating steps for dealing with an emergency when it occurs. 

Tackling emergency preparedness can baffle even the most seasoned c-store owner — unless you include these 8 crucial guidelines in your emergency plan:

Safe Evacuation – If an emergency arises while customers and employees are still in your store, it’s important to ensure that everyone stays safe by incorporating these key guidelines into your emergency plan:

  • Create an emergency evacuation plan with evacuation routes for everyone to leave your store, and perform evacuation drills on a regular basis, at least every quarter.
    • Post signs with evacuation routes in visible places, and designate a meeting place where you can account for everyone, and inform emergency responders of anyone who is missing.
    • Ensure there are clear paths to your emergency exits so people can leave quickly without any obstacles in their way.
    • Keep merchandise, boxes, or displays from blocking access to fire extinguishers or sprinkler systems.
    • Designate an area nearby to shelter in place if it is unsafe to travel after leaving your store. 
    • Check with your property management company to ask if they can recommend optimal travel routes and shelters. 
  • Ensure employees and customers take their personal belongings with them when they leave your store.
  • Help anyone who needs assistance leaving your store.
  • Lock your store behind you, and ensure your store is under surveillance to protect you from looters. You can find more tips for securing your store under guideline #5 – Property Security.
  • If it is unsafe to evacuate your store, such as during an earthquake, have a plan of where everyone should take shelter within the store (and specific areas to avoid). Outline how to physically prepare for impact, such as to drop to the floor, take cover, and what to grab to brace for impact.
  • Hint: In the event of an extended emergency like a disease outbreak, give ample time for you and your employees to prepare for temporary store closure, if needed. 
  • If you have enough time during evacuation before an emergency strikes, remove items from your inventory that may spoil and place them in a designated location.

Team Communication – Not only does effective team communication help everyone stay organized, but it can also reduce panic and fear by keeping everyone informed of the latest updates. Follow these steps for successfully communicating with your team during an emergency:

  • Make a list of emergency contact names, phone numbers, and emails, and share the list with your team.
  • Smart Idea: Update the contact list periodically to ensure you have the most updated information.
  • Determine how you will communicate with employees and keep them informed of updates.
  • Before, during, and after an emergency, regularly check in with your team to ensure they are safe and provide them with any updates.

Customer Communication – Don’t forget how to determine the methods you will use to communicate with your customers during an emergency or disaster. Include these tips in your emergency plan:

  • Notify customers of store closures, alternate business hours, and the amount of time you will be closed or will operate at reduced hours.
  • Determine in advance all channels you will use to communicate with your customers — social media posts, notifications on your store’s website, emails, text messages, or press releases. 
  • Create message templates that you can quickly retrieve to send to customers so you will not have to spend time crafting specific messages during an emergency.

Don’t Miss: Be sure to notify customers when you are open again and operating at normal hours.

Data Security – In an emergency, it may be difficult or dangerous to work at your store location, or your store or computer equipment may suffer damage caused by an unforeseen event. You need the ability to protect critical store data and remotely access data that you normally review through your work computer. Your plan should include how to:

  • Protect important documents, whether using a fire-proof safe, physical location, and/or technology.
  • Back up crucial data you will need to access remotely if you are not able to work in your c-store.
  • Property Security – Determine how you will secure your property, equipment, and merchandise from burglars or looters when you learn of impending disaster. Implement these steps into your emergency plan, and ask your landlord or property manager if s/he can help absorb some or all the associated costs:

  • Have back-up power in place, like a generator, to protect your lighting, security system, refrigeration, POS system, and equipment.
  • Update your security system with working cameras that save footage to the internet for quick and easy access. 
  • Position cameras correctly so you can capture video footage without anything obscuring the camera’s view.
  • Install sufficient lighting both outside and inside your store to enable security cameras to easily identify thieves. 
  • Include security alarms with both loud ringing alerts and connection to a monitoring service to alert police.
  • Install window bars, grilles, or shatterproof windows.

  • Employees can lock themselves in the store and clean, restock inventory, or simply be visible in the store to anyone who may be tempted to break into the store to loot. 
  • Ask employees to immediately report any suspicious behavior to the police and sound your alarm in the event of a threat.

Bug Out Bags – A bug out bag is a survival bag, or emergency kit, that includes everything you and your employees need when disaster strikes. Make bug out bags part of your emergency plan. You can create individual bug out bags for each employee, and/or group bug out bags for employees to share if needed. Here are the essentials to include in your bug out bags:

  • First Aid kit
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Solar cell phone charger
  • Blanket
  • Nonperishable food – dried fruit, nuts, trail mix, granola bars, jerky, crackers, peanut butter, canned meals or canned vegetables, beans, or tuna (cans should ideally have pop tops)
  • Water – one gallon per day

Disaster Fund – Your emergency plan should also include setting money aside for a disaster fund in case you have to close your store(s) but still need to retain your team when you reopen. Your disaster fund should include enough money to keep your employees on your payroll and pay for their benefits for at least a month, longer if you can afford it.

Insurance Protection – Take the necessary steps to ensure you have enough insurance coverage in case of a disaster:

  • Meet with your insurance agent/advisor to review your current coverage to determine if you have enough to cover your losses. 
  • Make sure your current policy limits cover full replacement of your business and inventory, and increase your limits where needed. 

  • Communicating emergencies and updates to employees and customers, documenting all communications from c-stores, and communicating with customers regarding if your c-store is open and specific business hours.
  • Organizing and directing staff members and customers to evacuate the building during an emergency
  • Assessing any damage to property, equipment, or merchandise for insurance reporting

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