Where Do I Start?


Disaster planning can be very intimidating and overwhelming- especially when you are trained in a completely different field. Disaster planning can also fall very far to the bottom of the priority pile when you have many immediate deadlines and no imminent threats.

But accomplishing one small task, perhaps once per month or quarter, can pay dividends over the long-term. Where to start?

1. Conduct a risk assessment using the Risk Evaluation and Planning Program (REPP). REPP includes a Risk Prioritization Worksheet that’s easy to use.

2. Invite your local police officers and fire company over to walk through your facility. They are happy to offer suggestions, and their different perspective is invaluable.

  • They will not cite you during a walk through! When they are called to your site during an emergency, they will have to cite you for problems.
  • Don’t forget all of the shifts (for example, firefighters work 24 hours every third day).
  • Get a knox box or give copies of keys and security codes to the fire department. They do much less damage to a building when opening doors with keys than the alternative.

For more tips on connecting with emergency responders, see the FAIC’s Build Relationships with Emergency Responders resource page.

3. Photograph your entire site inside and out. When applying for aid after a disaster (whether through your insurance or FEMA), you will need to show proof of what you had in order to get compensated for it. This does not necessarily mean photographing individual items, but do photograph your collection area.

4. Identify collection priorities.

  • What is critical to your mission?
  • What has local, state, or national importance?
  • Consider marking shelves containing collection priorities with reflective tape, so they are easy to find and grab during a disaster. Explain this system to police and fire personnel during your walk-throughs.

5. Create a simple disaster plan. There are many templates available:

  • dPlan: dPlan is a free online tool that will help you simplify the process of writing a disaster plan. Simply plug your information into the blanks.
  • Disaster plans: scroll down for several disaster plan templates

6. From your disaster plan, create a simple flip book for reference during a disaster. Each page covers a different situation (fire alarm, bomb threat, tornado sirens…) Distribute among staff so they can grab it when necessary.

7. Create a system for backing up files. Keep your backup in a different location from your originals.

  • if you can’t include everything, make sure you have collections inventories, insurance information, and business records critical for continuing your business
  • backup can be paper or electronic
  • backup can be as elaborate as a far-away, off-site server, or as simple as external hard drives that staff evacuate

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