When I decided to move from Wisconsin to Florida, many friends said something along the lines of, “Aren’t you worried about hurricanes?”

I believe I prefer hurricanes to tornados (granted I wasn’t in Florida when Irma hit in 2017…). In my mind, there’s at least some advanced warning with hurricanes. Tornados are pretty common in Wisconsin and there is often no more than a few minutes of time to seek cover.

It wasn’t until South Florida was on alert with Hurricane Isaac in 2012 that I realized I needed a communication plan. Not only would I want to let my family know what was happening, but I also needed to factor in how I was going to communicate with clients. After all, I strive to be reliable and proactive.

I jokingly call it “My If I Get Hit By A Bus Plan.”

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This plan has distinct but overlapping groups, and it relies on information passing between three different groups of people, through my family and kick-a$$ assistant. It’s my own version of a phone tree!

Group One: Family

Group Two: Clients

Group Three: Other Key People (other team members, etc.)

If something happens to me and my family is first to know: My family will alert my assistant. My assistant will then notify all of my clients and other key people.

If something happens to me and my assistant is first to know (you know, because she gave me a heart attack for some reason!): She will alert both my family and clients.

I happen to have a large family, so I selected just two main points of contact within it. I don’t want to bog my assistant down with trying to reach my mom and all six siblings. That could take forever! Instead, the two designated family members will notify the rest of the family.

I realize it will be really stressful for my assistant to notify both my family and my clients, so she has my banking login info so she can issue herself hazard pay.

10 things to consider as you put together a plan:

  1. Designate the necessary points of contact between business and family, and between family and business. Do the proper introductions.
  2. Create a phone tree and share it with your designated points of contact.
  3. Keep key contact information in a centralized online location. Consider creating a cloud-based database with Google Forms or something similar.
  4. Keep all information up to date. Set up a recurring task in Asana.
  5. Consider what login information an assistant (or family member) would need access to in the event of hospitalization or death. Share login information through a password manager such as Passpack or Dashlane. Give at least one trusted person full access with read/write access.
  6. Make sure an assistant (or family member) sets up an email autoresponder as soon as possible.
  7. Determine the various types of emergencies, and develop a plan for each. A death plan will be implemented differently than a severe weather plan. (Morbid, I know.)
  8. Determine what modes of communication to use with various parties. A client with daily work should get a phone call instead of merely an email.
  9. Define the frequency that your email should be checked. Make sure the proper logins are shared for all necessary accounts.
  10. Put the entire plan into writing. Distribute as necessary. Review quarterly and make the necessary updates.
  11. Bonus tip: In the event of planning for severe weather emergencies, consider purchasing a solar battery charger to help keep your cell phone powered.
  12. Create a phone tree and share it with your designated points of contact.
  13. Keep key contact information in a centralized online location. Consider creating a cloud-based database with Google Forms or something similar.

These are intended as guidelines. Your situation and needs will vary, so plan to adjust accordingly.

It’s never too early to prepare for the worst-case scenario

In 2014, a past co-worker committed suicide. My previous employer didn’t have any access to key information and procedures, such as companywide payroll, banking logins, etc., because it wasn’t in a centralized location.

In 2015, one of my clients was unexpectedly killed in an accident.

And for all I know…I could get hit by a bus tomorrow while playing Pokémon GO (although I think Pokémon GO has probably run its course. I’m not sure; I’ve never played!)

While death and debilitating accidents are unpleasant to think about, the time invested in creating an emergency plan will make things much easier in the event something happens.

What other steps would you recommend for creating an emergency plan?

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