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Disaster Guide – Before, During and After

200x200.jpgACT's Disaster Planning work group has prepared an updated Disaster Guide that provides a map for not only planning but also response and recovery. It will help your agency minimize harm to individuals and business operations and will allow you to quickly return to serving customers in their greatest hours of need. 

Before diving into a response plan, you'll need to undertake a disaster risk assessment. ACT has a great assessment that helps you rank the perils you most likely will face, which will guide your overall response priorities and strategy. 

To help you get your initiative started, the Disaster Guide suggests you identify employees who will participate in the implementation of your response plan. Your employees, both at the leadership level and at the core functional level, will each have a special responsibility or set of responsibilities, and seamless integration is crucial. Controlling the flow of information internally and externally will eliminate confusion and help you get a consistent, coherent message out to carriers, clients and vendors alike. The initial preparations also involve your physical location(s), equipment, supplies, utilities, and transportation/mobile sites. In some cases, moving items to safer regions may be required, so partnerships should be established as soon as possible. Waiting until a storm is on the way could leave you without easy, affordable resources. 

Your carriers and vendors will appreciate your outreach and may already have excellent suggestions or programs of their own for disaster response that you can work with claims, emergency personnel and payments, authorized adjusters and contractors. Designating a couple of employees as managers of these integrated plans can create expertise that will be sorely needed in a pinch. Your agency management system should be current with updates, and you should have remote access to all your files and programs. Cloud-based systems and a paperless environment can save the day if your hardware takes a direct hit. 

During a disaster, your priority is safety and awareness. If you have a text tree or a Twitter account or some other marked safe or need help contact method, you will want to use it in the midst of the disaster. A battery-operated radio, charged spare batteries for cell phones, and crank lighting can be of great assistance during a disaster. 

Once it is safe to do so, you will initiate your disaster response plan, which includes checking with all employees and having everyone execute their duties. Your website is an excellent tool for communicating vital information to those using cell phones when the power is out, so make sure your website is mobile compatible and updated with the latest information your clients need: claims, temporary housing, food and water, pet assistance, medical care, etc. When roads are passable and travel is permissible, the person assigned should check the office. If it is safe and usable, you can start reaching out to clients, carriers and the media with information on your capabilities and accessibility. 

 Lastly, don't forget to run a post-disaster debriefing. This will give you a chance to iron out any bumps for the next time. And don't forget that a second disaster could hit while you are still in recovery from the first. This means you must never consider the job done, and must keep on guard for a new blast of difficulty even when in response mode. Having that deeper plan could set you way above your competitors and be the difference between full readiness and unmanageable calamity. 

For the full ACT Disaster Guide, click here, then scroll down to find the three main steps: Be Prepared, During the Disaster, and After the Disaster.

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