January 7, 2013

Preparation is Key During an Emergency

Have you made a New Year’s resolution or are you looking for one to make? What about resolving to keep your business in business, no matter what? BnBFinder’s office has always been located in Lower Manhattan so we know firsthand the value of disaster planning.

After 9/11 we were able to quickly set up temporary offices in another location because of plans we had made ahead of time. From there we were able to operate our business and service guests and innkeepers as well as process holiday gift certificate orders. After Hurricane Sandy, our staff was able to work remotely from home as a result of advance preparation; and today we are still working efficiently without incoming phone lines because of contingency planning for remote voicemail services.

When was the last time you reviewed your emergency preparedness? If a guest had an emergency at your inn, would they know how to reach you, especially after hours? The first few minutes after an emergency occurs are the most critical. Your reaction can safeguard your guests, yourself and the inn. Basic readiness may seem like common sense; however, it’s easy to put off the planning of it. Here are some things to consider ahead of time so you know how you will react:
  • Know basic first aid. Be sure to check with your insurance agent and attorney for legal advice on rendering medical attention, and then if advised take a first-aid training class. Also, keep basic first-aid supplies on hand. Even if you think you have everything, now is a good time to check the condition and adequacy of supplies. 

  • Have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors as well as fire extinguishers installed and checked frequently. 

  • You and your staff should know what to do in the event of a kitchen fire. 

  • Have an evacuation plan for each guest room posted in rooms and point out exits to guests during their welcome tour. 

  • Have a contingency plan for guests’ stays that are interrupted because of situations beyond your control. Talk to other inns in the area ahead of time about a reciprocal agreement to host each other’s guests in the event of an emergency at the inn. 

  • Set up off-site backups of bookkeeping records in case of an emergency at the inn or a computer meltdown. Simple programs such as QuickBooks online backup offer peace of mind at a minimal cost. 

  • Check how backups are done by your reservation software company. Can you quickly set up on another computer to contact guests and continue to take reservations if there is an emergency at the inn or even a common (but disruptive) computer crash? 
  • Keep important numbers handy. In the Cheat Sheet at the front of Running a Bed and Breakfast For Dummies, I list out which ones you should have easily available in case of an emergency at the inn.
No matter how hard you work, things happen that are beyond your control. So take a few minutes today to make preparations to ensure your business is ready to be in business and to stay in business.

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