Open for Business and OFB-EZ (Free business continuity tools from IBHS)

July 25, 2013

Sharing IBHS’s cool products spotlighted in our July 2013 enews

America has over 23 million small businesses employing about half of the private labor force. The last thing owners want to think about during these tough economic times (or any time for that matter) is a natural or man-made disaster impacting their bottom line.

However, research shows at least 25 percent (and potentially as high as 40 percent) of small businesses do not reopen after a major disaster. Those that do, often struggle to stay in business.

By planning in advance, the odds of a company surviving and recovering from a disaster increase dramatically. Many small and mid-sized businesses and groups think that developing a continuity plan can be complicated and costly. Most don’t invest the energy and money into preparing for the unexpected.

But some free business continuity tools can help change that…

Free solutions from IBHS

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) has developed a streamlined business continuity program for small businesses that may not have the time or resources to create an extensive plan to recover from business interruptions.

Open for Business (OFB) is the Institute’s comprehensive business continuity planning program, and the new OFB-EZ tool is a streamlined kit intended for the use by the very small business owner.

Knowing what risks they face, how to contact key suppliers, vendors and employees without access to electronic records, how to access data, and where to go for help will give small businesses a jump start on recovery if the worst happens.

“Spending a few minutes to plan now will save time and money later,” said Gail Moraton, IBHS Business Resiliency Manager. “OFB-EZ takes into account just how busy small business owners are and focuses on the most important things they must do to be better prepared.”

How can these tools be available at no cost?

IBHS is an independent, nonprofit, scientific research and communications organization supported by the property insurance industry. The organization works to reduce the social and economic effects of natural disasters and other risks on residential and commercial property by conducting building science research and advocating improved construction, maintenance and preparedness practices.

Howard Pierpont, Board Chair of DERA (The International Association for Disaster Preparedness and Response), has been involved in the review and comments portion of various OFB tool developments since 2005. Pierpont’s 40 years of Business Development, Business Management and Business Continuity experience, combined with his passion to help educate the public about preparedness, are a testament to the types of volunteer experts IBHS has involved with their OFB platform.

The key now, Pierpont explains, is to get the word out to the small and mid-sized businesses, community associations and others about these free tools so they can be better prepared.

OFB-EZ: For the small business owner in the know

According to IBHS, to get started, a business owner should download the free OFB-EZ toolkit and go through each of the eight modules below. Once finished, the next step is to print out multiple copies of the final plan for quick access in the office in a safe, off-site location and save the files to a flash drive.

  • Know Your Risks – Evaluate the extent of your business’ vulnerability to disruptions.
  • Know Your Operations – Identify your key business functions and processes and decide how long you can go without being able to perform each of them.
  • Know Your Employees – Keep employee contact information updated to locate them after a disaster, inquire about their safety, and inform them about the status of your business operations, where and if they should report and what to do following a disaster.
  • Know Your Vendors, Key Contacts and Key Customers – Keep contact information for your key customers, contacts, suppliers and vendors up-to-date.
  • Know Your Information Technologies – Protect your company’s hardware and data.
  • Know Your Finances – Establishing clear strategies and procedures for controlling costs, reporting information to appropriate organizations and clearly budgeting for and tracking what is actually spent during a significant disruption can have a positive impact on the business’ bottom line performance and recovery.
  • Know Where to Go For Help – Maintain a channel of communication with community leaders, public safety organizations such as the police, fire and emergency medical services, government agencies, utility companies, and others
  • Know When to Update and Test Your Plan – Schedule regular reviews and updates to your plan.

With OFB-EZ, IBHS is leading the way toward greater resiliency for the even the smallest of business operations. Business continuity planning is constantly evolving in response to improvements in technology and the increased demands on everyone’s time.

“OFB-EZ focuses on the best practices of business continuity planning,” said Moraton, “It is disaster resilience for a modern world where cutting through the clutter can be challenging.”

Learn more about OFB-EZ … and find other IBHS tools, videos and a vast library of preparedness research and resources at www.disastersafety.org or follow them on Facebook or Twitter, and share ideas with others in your community.  

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