Picture a dining room full of hungry diners. Everyone is just sitting down to enjoy a midday salad when, all of a sudden, darkness hits.
Some patrons walk out; new ones are turned away. Without electricity, staffers can’t ring up meals customers already ordered. In the hour it takes to restore power, thousands of dollars in revenue go down the drain.
This exact situation happened in downtown Sacramento in early July. A 45-minute outage zapped electricity from several area eateries during the lunchtime rush.
Of course, blackouts can’t always be predicted. But a business that implements an emergency plan, rehearses it, and invests in a warning system will reap the benefits.
Analyzing data and predicting these occurrences can keep you — and your customers — out of the dark.
Failing to Plan Is Planning to Fail
Why are most businesses ill-equipped for storms or outages? Because it’s just the weather. Who can predict that?
Some organizations know they need to prepare, but the employee they’ve designated to take the lead is already overworked. Others believe disasters happen so infrequently that preparedness can be kept on the back burner.
What’s more, if they do have a plan in place, they may not take the time to practice it; assessing your shop’s vulnerabilities and all the variables that may arise takes time, as does notifying vendors and keeping the supply chain uninterrupted.
However, because severe weather is sure to persist, power outages will become more frequent. Businesses can no longer afford to wing it in an emergency. Yes, change is expensive, but sticking with the status quo can be even costlier.
The fact is disasters can and do lead to failure. Most blackouts are brief, but some last for weeks (or longer) and lead to a shutdown in infrastructure. Research shows even a 30-minute power outage results in average losses of $15,000.
So what kind of strategy can businesses enact to stay ahead of the game should the lights suddenly go out on clientele?
Develop a disaster response plan, and test it. Assemble a command team, and identify someone to lead it. Notify key employees so that if something goes wrong, they’ll know how to handle it.
Assign tasks such as checking on employees or repairing damage. Will you need to remove carts from your parking lot? Remove products, such as tables and chairs, sitting out front. Get all of these bases covered beforehand.
Alert all parties. Contact your vendors so you can keep your supply chain intact in the event of a disaster. Decide how you’ll communicate with clients, vendors, on-site employees, and remote workers. What if the phones go out? What if email fails? Set up — and test — your backup communications.
Make sure you’re getting the best information. The National Weather Service is more interested in protecting the public than helping businesses remain efficient. Allow weather forecasters to show you exactly how you’ll be affected on the ground.
Keep essentials near. Need survival supplies for when you, customers, and employees are stuck? Start with a battery-powered radio or TV so you can stay up-to-date on news stories.
While you’re at it, throw in some automatic lights, flashlights, and extra batteries. Your survival pack should also include a phone that works without electricity, a first-aid kit, tools, canned food, and bottled water.
The good news is that with technology capable of analyzing current conditions and data from past events, we can now calculate the probability of power outages due to weather. This, coupled with a disaster response plan, helps business leaders be proactive.
Don’t wait for your business’s next outage — attack it head on.