As the events of the last two years have shown us all, we need to be more prepared than ever for summer disaster season. We all know the drill to prepare our homes and the gear we need, but as more and more of us do business online, how can we be sure to keep our virtual stores open when the worst happens? We’ve got some advice to get you started.

Ensuring physical continuity

The NSW State Emergency Service recommends all businesses follow simple steps to ensure your business can get back on its feet quickly in the event of a disaster. The NSW SES advice also has a booklet you can fill out to ensure these plans are in place for you and your business.

The agency recommends knowing your level of risk by analysing disasters that have occurred in the area previously, before talking with your staff about these risks. These conversations with staff should result in an emergency action plan so you all know what to do ifthe worst hits.

Once the action plan is in place, prepare your business for a disaster by thinking about your equipment; stock; points of entry; essentials (such as paperwork), and how to minimise the threat to all of the above.

By having these steps in place, businesses can resume trading in a matter of days and not weeks or even months.

How can you keep your business online during a disaster?

Aussie businesses and consumers have moved online in droves in response to COVID-19 restrictions. But when disaster strikes, you may have to pivot your operations to do things a little differently in a bid to ensure that you can keep your business online.

Ensuring continuity following disasters comes from being well-prepared before the fire starts or the floodwaters start to rise.

First and foremost, work out an alternate location where you can do your business. If you get evacuated to a local shelter, check our coverage maps to ensure mobile broadband coverage in that location, and have a portable modem on standby in your business’ disaster kit.

Similarly, ensure your disaster kit is equipped with a “go-bag” of the gear you need to keep going. Equipment like portable batteries/alternative chargers as well as having the right apps and contact information on your phone is essential. We’ve got tips on how to build your “go-bag”.

Staying in touch with your customers is important, so you should ensure your communication channels are sorted out in advance. You can communicate to them via email or SMS for messages to a lot of people in a hurry, and if you consolidate your customer details into a CRM system, you’ll have it ready to go at the click of a button. Also, backup your data regularly to the cloud to ensure that if the worst should happen that your important documents are kept safe.

While we’re talking about communications, it’s also important to communicate and check in with your employees to ensure their safety before asking them to join you in the virtual office.

It’s important to consider how every part of your business – from customer acquisition through to product delivery – could be impacted by a disaster to ensure you aren’t disrupted by a disaster. For example, you might need to consider other shipment options if a disaster affects your physical location; or you may need to talk to customers a different way if you have to relocate or if you’re unable to reach them.

You should also write all of this down ahead of time so you have a simple plan to follow and you aren’t relying on memory when the going gets tough.

Keeping payments flowing

Getting paid is the most important thing for your business, especially in times of disasters.

If you have an EFTPOS machine, ensure you have a way to charge it when you’re on the go and away from mains power. Also ensure that you have a way of getting it connected to your payment provider. Similarly, ensure your EFTPOS machine has multiple ways of connecting to the internet, whether via Wi-Fi or mobile network to ensure redundancy.

It might be a good idea to have in your “go-bag” an alternative payment system, such as portable smartphone card reader or a way to take payments online. Payment providers like Square, Afterpay, BPAY, ZipPay and even direct bank transfer or PayID could be options for you to consider.

Ensuring your accounting system is backed up and portable is also important. Moving this information to the cloud can help ensure you’re keeping track of money going in and out even when the worst happens.

How we can help

Connectivity is the backbone of business in 2020, and we want to do everything we can to make sure that you’re online and open during a crisis.

During a disaster, we have assistance packages available to help, and our local stores are always on hand to answer questions face-to-face or even just provide you a place to charge your phone and/or portable batteries again.

As discussed, however, staying online during a crisis or disaster is often about being prepared ahead time. You can speak to one of our small business reps to ensure your business has the right tools in place for things like digital marketing services, cybersecurity or tech support.

It’s also important to keep an offline copy of this information. We recommend printing this information to keep on hand.