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Small Business Emergency Planning in a Digital Age

This week, I had the pleasure of attending an Astra WBE Economic Summit in Seattle where CEOs and business leaders from a variety of industries came together for some stellar round-table discussions and panels. With attendees from Microsoft, Sound Transit, Starbucks, Chateau Ste. Michelle, REI, the US Navy, and the Army Corps of Engineers among others, covered topics included a look at the potential future demands and expectations of suppliers from both corporate and government perspectives. As I’ve been writing about the changing focus on the supply chain recently, this was a highlight for me.

Another key highlight focused on the role of technology and how businesses – small ones in particular – can make it work for us. This sparked another stream of conversation between delegates offline as there’s no doubt that we are becoming more dependent on technology for even the simplest things (case in point, who can remember anyone’s phone number these days?). Much of our professional and personal lives reside in the cloud but what happens if disaster strikes, cell phone service goes down and everything we take for granted no longer works?

Living in the Bay Area precariously close to the San Andreas fault, planning for emergencies should be something that’s top of mind for every business. Having been around for the last major earthquake in 1989, I know that as much of an oxymoron as “emergency planning” might sound, being as prepared as possible for what may happen is important. Of course, wherever you’re located, none of us are immune to unexpected serious events. And really, events don’t have to be serious in any grand sense. For example, heavy rain here in San Francisco last fall managed to temporarily close businesses in whole blocks across the city as transformers blew and locations were flooded.

I’ve written many times before about ISO 14001, the internationally-recognized environmental certification we hold, but much less so about ISO 9001.

ISO 9001 is the quality management certification which also provides a framework for disaster preparedness. It requires thorough training for each staff member in the event of an emergency such as an earthquake. This includes such basics as having an agreed upon exit route and meeting point, ensuring everyone has each other’s contact numbers (and ideally a landline as mobile networks can be unreliable in the aftermath of a major event), and also ensuring everyone has an understanding of how the business will continue to function post-disaster and exactly what their role would be within that.

This may sound like simple common sense, and fundamentally it is just that. However I believe, as with ISO 14001 and achieving sustainability targets, that the difference getting certified makes is that it turns disaster preparedness from something we should be ready for into something we are ready for. As business owners, we all know how we’re so focused on our clients that time runs out for our own business needs. However, as well as protecting the safety of our employees, quality management certification means that we are doing everything we can to always provide the best quality client service – whatever the world throws at us. And as the demands and expectations of suppliers become ever more rigorous, as was so clear from this Astra Summit, the ability to communicate a truly client-centric approach will be key.

If you’d like to find out more about our experiences and insight into gaining ISO certification, and whether it might be right for your business, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.



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We hold the following certifications: WBE, WOSB Women-Owned Business, WBENC, CPUC Supplier Clearing
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