If the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t a big enough strain on businesses trying to engage in commerce, whether it’s retailers, restaurants, manufacturers or those in the service sector, civil unrest puts another strain on surviving the downturn. Based on recommendations from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Small Business Administration, businesses can prepare for civil unrest.
While the British firm Verisk Maplecroft predicts that 75 countries will see civil unrest in 2020, the United States has already seen its fair share recently. While the future intensity of civil unrest can’t be predicted, businesses can take steps to plan and mitigate such events.
For businesses, the first priority is to ensure employees and customers are not put in harm’s way. If a dangerous situation happens quickly and without warning, there are some steps business owners can take to mitigate the threat.
- Plan ahead for travel disruptions by keeping an eye on local media reports and online/social media. This information can be helpful for informing employees and customers not go to work or order online if a retail outlet or office location is subject to civil unrest.
- Ensure that all workers are familiar with emergency and security plans. This might include having current contact information to reach employees before they go to work or giving them time to leave before the situation escalates.
Another recommendation is to take steps against arson, break-ins and damage sustained to the property. Examples include maintaining employee vigilance against out-of-the-ordinary activity. Review security and fire protection systems, how alarm companies will notify business owners, and what steps the monitoring companies will take to mitigate against burglary and/or fire. Reinforce locks and board up areas vulnerable to damage or provide easy points of access during civil riots (e.g., protect glass doors and windows).
If first responders take longer than normal to arrive, it’s important to take measures to reduce the chance of serious and unintended damages from the civil unrest. Be it water, gas, electrical or related systems, turning off all but necessary utilities (e.g., water for sprinklers; enough heat to prevent freezing pipes; power for alarm system) could reduce the risk of additional damage.
Along with having a commercial insurance policy that includes looting as a covered peril, one other important part of a business continuity plan is how important documents are stored. Will they be stored on premises in a safe? Will they be stored online, in the cloud and encrypted? Will they be stored offsite in a secure location?
Much like other disasters that often happen with little to no warning, businesses that prepare before civil unrest occurs can help reduce the amount of property damaged and help get their operations back to pre-crisis levels.