Disaster Planning for Your DC

You know you should have a plan in place should disaster strike your offices or distribution center, but too many companies are ill prepared. The flooding and tornados that swept parts of the country this spring should remind us all how vulnerable we are.

The first action in disaster planning is identifying and understanding the risks to your facility. Weather, fire, earthquakes, flooding, cyber threats; the list is long, and every facility is different, so a “cookie cutter” plan rarely works.

To develop an effective site-specific plan you must drill down, being as detailed as possible concerning the risks your facility might face.

Remember that the plan you create is the one you may have to execute, so it must be concise, understandable, and flexible enough to adapt. In a word: simple.

But don’t create your disaster plans in a vacuum. Tap all the valuable expertise in your organization, including management as well as employees “out on the floor.” It’s critical to get input from the workers on the front lines who possess the real world knowledge that is vital when planning for an emergency.

For example, do office personnel know where water pools and flooding occurs in a DC yard during a downpour? Probably not. But yard personnel know where you should or shouldn’t park vehicles so they won’t be flooded.

Other items to consider when planning for disasters are:

  • Protection of your employees, your most important asset. How will you keep them safe and secure when a disaster strikes? After it strikes?
  • Securing your building, equipment, machinery, and vehicles before a disaster occurs and then after one takes place. This can be two entirely different scenarios when your facility is missing a roof or wall.
  • Do you have common supplies including gloves, brooms, shovels, etc. to aid in cleanup? Are there supplies you’ll need for cleanup or to resume business that are unique to your particular industry?
  • Do you have the basics, such as water and emergency food should you have to have personnel on site after a disaster? Do you periodically check your perishables for expiration dates? Expired food in your emergency kit, expired batteries, first aid kits, etc?
  • Have you documented your facility and equipment with photography? Odds are you’ll have many “after” photos of damage and debris, but few companies have “before” shots. Do you have cameras—ready and charged—to record damage? Plenty of batteries?
  • Are there adequate and reliable means of communication such as cell phones, radios or websites to stay in touch with both employees and customers? Power may be out, so a “sister facility” in another area may have to help get the word out to customers.
  • Have you created hard copy information on vendors you may need to contact to get your operation up and going again? Remember basic services such as electricity could be out, so relying on a vendor database may not be an option.

If the disaster happens and you must implement your plan, be sure to follow up and have an after-action review to capture all lessons learned so you can improve your plan.

Finally, practice and refine your plan at least annually so you are confident it will work.

Dan Day is a manager of security and risk management for Kenco Management Services, a consultancy specializing in warehousing, systems, transportation, real estate and material handling equipment.

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