Managing After A Crisis Hits
Whether it's a hurricane, fire, burglary, medical emergency, range accident or other type of natural disaster, having a crisis management plan in place should be a top priority for your business.
When we talk about crisis management we should include preparedness, training, recovery, and rebuilding. Having these four pieces planned, documented and rehearsed will ensure you are back in business in a relatively short time frame when a crisis strikes. “Winging it” just doesn't work and will not account for all the unexpected variables that may come into play.
Here’s a real-life example I was called in to support several years ago with an unfortunate, yet preventable outcome. A firearms dealer experienced a burglary by way of a smash and grab whereby 4 juveniles used a stolen vehicle to crash through the front doors of his store. This resulted in more than $44,000 in property damage to the interior and exterior building while only 5 handguns valued at $2,300 were stolen. Although the thieves were quickly apprehended and firearms recovered, the store was left in shambles. What happened next was completely unexpected.
Due to the fact the storefront was demolished resulting in a full re-build, the store had to be emptied of all inventory and equipment, leaving simply the shell. Temporary labor had to be hired and everything was loaded into storage units and secured off site for security reasons. The FFL and the landlord ran into disputes over who’s insurance would pay for repairs. Then there were additional disputes over contractors to make repairs. Arguments followed regarding adding / not adding additional exterior security to deter future burglaries. Then neighboring tenants complained to the landlord about contractors parking vehicles and dumpsters. And the list goes on. And more troubling than the rebuild was the fact that the FFL’s loyal clients had to shop elsewhere while the store was closed for construction. Sadly, what should have been a 45-day rebuild turned into a 90+ day event. Good employees were laid off or found employment elsewhere. Business interruption insurance was in place for only 30 days, incurring more than 2 months of out-of-pocket expenses while the business was closed. And once the loyal customers went elsewhere, it was very difficult to win them back! Due to a lack of crisis planning for this unexpected incident, it wasn’t long before this FFL liquidated his business.
Considering current events in Houston and now Florida, every business owner should consider the following and create a solid Crisis Management Plan that would support business continuance:
1. PREPARE – discuss with your leadership team that unexpected incidents may occur and you should all have a plan, general or specific, to deal with such issues. We recommend started with a general plan that is rehearsed and known and add details for more specific types of incidents later. If your business is in a coastal area, can you be affected by hurricanes, flooding, power outages, etc. If you're located inland, you have tornadoes to worry about. If you are west coast, you have earthquakes to consider. If you're in the mountains, you may have wildfires or severe snow as a challenge. And if your inner city you're more susceptible to burglary robbery and civil unrest.
We urge you to document your specific procedures as part of your preparation process and identify roles for each member of the team in its simplest form. Basically a “who does what” type of checklist so you’re ready when the “stuff” hits the fan! Your documentation should include a list of primary repair and service vendors, your insurance claim contact info and public utilities. And although you may have employee phone numbers written down somewhere, an updated master list should be included in your “emergency binder” or folder for easy reference if they need to be called on to help after or during business hours.
And if the crisis is foreseeable such as approaching wildfires, hurricanes or civil unrest, do you have a plan for securing your firearms if you must vacate? Will your A & D records be affected? Can they be secured or backed up? Should you contact your ATF regional office for guidance? And following the incident, who can assist quickly in conducting an inventory if necessary?
2. TRAINING – this can be “table top” exercises that take place in discussion form in your break room or inside / outside your location. Training should be ongoing and ahead of any trends, especially weather or media-related, that may be impacting your area. If it’s hurricane season, talk about managing a severe storm. If burglaries are on the rise and in the news, review procedures for responding to alarm calls and burglary recovery. This is critical with new team members. Take time during new-hire orientation to review emergency egress, fire exits, tornado sheltering, first aid kits, hold-up alarm devices, how to respond if robbed, etc. An important part of this training should also include how to respond if the media shows up at the location, what to say / not say, etc. Consult your local emergency responders, the ATF and NSSF for materials and free training sessions that may be available in person or via the internet.
3. RECOVERY – at the time of any unusual incident there will be much anxiety, stress and even confusion after the dust settles. With training and coordination, the team should be able to rally and manage through the recovery process and stay on track as described in the planning documentation. If all goes well, the insurance adjusters will be timely, efficient and support your financial needs. Hopefully your insurance policy covers property damage as well as business interruption for an adequately defined period that correlates to the incident. You should also review and understand your deductibles are calculate if they are manageable. You may also want to discuss relative sections of your crisis management plans with your landlord, insurance broker and contractors ahead of time so you get preferential treatment and have good relations established out front.
4. REBUILDING - the story I mentioned above is real and a good example of “things that may go wrong”. My best advice in this phase is to “expect the unexpected”. Having managed crises through hurricanes, fires, tornadoes, robberies and burglaries I can personally attest to the fact that your best planning will incur speedbumps and potholes along the way and that having patience, a cool head, a good team, and a documented crisis management plan will help you succeed.
NSSF’s Store Security Audit team is standing by to assist you with any physical or operational security issue you may have. For more information, visit the Retailers section of the nssf.org site. NSSF also partners with a variety of security product vendors. Log in to the members-only side of nssf.org to discover more.
John Bocker is an NSSF Security Consultant Team Member and the Managing Director at JB Group, LLC, based in Denver, Colorado. JB Group is a firearms and business security and strategy consulting organization specializing in ATF and FFL compliance and protecting FFL’s against unexpected losses resulting from internal and external crimes, internal control failures and risk exposures. Visit www.jbgroupco.com, call (720) 514-0609, or email email@example.com for moManaging After A Crisis
Author: John Bocker, CEO and Business Security & Risk Strategist, JB Group, LLC, Denver, CO
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