One of the many lessons businesses across the U.S. Virgin Islands and the rest of the Caribbean have learned in the wake of Hurricane Maria is that it is absolutely imperative to have disaster preparedness and contingency plans. The unfortunate reality is that all it takes is one large storm to come through and wipe out businesses and power grids. Organizations of all sizes must have established plans to ensure an unexpected natural disaster does not put them out of business for good.

The following is a simple process you can use to develop disaster preparedness and contingency plans for your business.

Identify the risks you face

Figure out which areas of your business would be the most at risk in a disaster situation. The best way to do this is to analyze all areas of your operations and identify everything that could go wrong.

For example, what if a massive power outage causes you to lose access to your data, including important customer information? What if flooding causes considerable damage to your property and storage space?

It can be helpful to have an outside party come in and conduct a disaster audit to pinpoint these potentially vulnerable areas.

Prioritize those risks

Which risks are the ones most likely to be catastrophic—or at least, majorly interrupting—for your business? A good strategy to use in risk prioritization is to create two lists: a probability ranking and an impact ranking. On a scale of one to 10, rank the probability and expected impact of each potential risk and determine which areas you need to address first.

Develop your contingency plan

Have a contingency plan for each of the scenarios most likely to have an impact on your operations. Some elements to include in your contingency plan include the following:

  • Timelines: Identify what you need to do within the first few hours or days after a data loss to mitigate the potential damage that could be done to your business and get back online more quickly.
  • Communication: Determine who in your company is in charge of communication for each scenario. If you run a small business, it is probably best for you to take on this responsibility.
  • Risk reduction: Take whatever steps you need to ahead of time to reduce the risk you face. Have insurance coverage for floods and building damage. Sign up for alerts for security or weather risks. Get educated about the steps you need to take after a disaster to restore your business.

Keep the plan updated

Even if you do not encounter any disaster situations, it is important to revisit your plan periodically to make sure it is up to date and that you are familiar with the steps you need to take in a worst-case scenario. Keep everyone in your company on the same page with regard to disaster response, as well, to ensure your contingency plan goes as smoothly as possible if you ever need to implement it.

For more information and guidance on establishing sound contingency plans, work with a dedicated U.S. Virgin Islands corporate law attorney.

Tom Bolt is Managing Attorney of BoltNagi, a respected and well-established business law firm serving clients throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.