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Petrosoft Blog

Mar 13, 2020 15:43 pm

10 Steps to Effective Emergency Preparedness for Your Convenience Store

Arming yourself, your employees, and your property with the tools to act and react to any situation is key in protecting your customers and employees in an emergency, keeping your store open longer, and helping you to resume operations as quickly as it is safe to do once the emergency has passed.

Below, you will find 10 steps to an effective emergency preparedness plan and the benefits of ensuring business continuity:

1.    Take Your Operation to the Cloud

Cloud-based technology is ideal for emergency scenarios, as business owners can leverage it to manage and run their businesses from anywhere. Using any internet-connected device, you can access the cloud, (as well as your data) from home or on-the-go, meaning you will no longer be required to be in the office in order to accomplish important tasks. In case anything happened to your physical location, your data can be stored safely in the cloud and kept secure so you can maintain business continuity.

This can be incredibly important in the event of an emergency that makes it difficult or dangerous to visit your location, like in the event of a disease outbreak or natural disaster. The ability to access critical data could be substantial when it comes to maintaining your business during an emergency and getting it back on track afterwards.

2.    Create an Emergency Plan

It’s unlikely that you will feel 100% prepared in any emergency, but planning ahead does help reduce stress, disorganization, and confusion should unforeseen events arise. Proper emergency preparedness requires at least some plan in place.

According to the Institute for Business and Home Safety, an estimated 25% of businesses don’t open again after a major disaster. Planning ahead can help increase the changes that your store will survive. To do this, evaluate possible scenarios and create a contingency plan for how to deal with each.

This can include:

  • Forming an emergency evacuation plan
  • Determining how you will communicate with employees
  • Gathering and distributing emergency contact information
  • Ensuring important documents and data are protected
  • Backing up any critical data you may need to access

3.    Define an Emergency Coordinator

An emergency coordinator is the person whose responsibility it is to ensure the emergency plan is executed appropriately should you be unable to do so yourself. This should be someone trusted by you and your staff to handle this responsibility effectively.

Responsibilities could include:

  • Keeping staff informed of the situation
  • Organizing and directing staff members
  • Assessing damage for insurance reporting

4.    Use and Follow Alerting Tools

With the advent of the digital age and the increased communication abilities we have as a result, business owners can stay informed of incoming and ongoing disasters. These are ideal for business owners so they don’t get caught unaware in an emergency. Many alerting tools are available to assist with this, including:

  • Mobile apps like the FEMA app
  • Weather radar app
  • Weather radio
  • Community warning system
  • In-store security

5.    Report Incidents

Communicate to your staff and your emergency coordinator about how to report incidents. Specify which emergencies should be reported to you, and which require additional action, like contacting 911. Everyone should be on the same page regarding incident reports, and should know exactly what information should be reported as well. If needed, take accounts from those who may have witnessed the event.

6.    Communicate with Your Employees, Customers, and Communities

Effective communication is imperative for emergency preparedness. Not only does this help everyone stay organized, but it can reduce panic and fear by keeping everyone informed.

Before an Emergency

Have a list of emergency contacts readily available and share plans for emergency evacuations and other safety measures.

During an Emergency

Stay in communication with employees for updates, document all communications from stores, and communicate with customers regarding business hours.

After an Emergency

Notify employees when all is clear so they can come back to work, inform staff members on how their jobs may be affected, and communicate recovery plans to your team and customers.

7.    Protect Yourself and Your Customers

It’s important in the event of a large-scale emergency that yourself, your home, and your family stay protected. If needed, stock up on supplies (but don’t panic-buy or hoard), and protect your home as well. Ensure you have uninterrupted access to important alerting tools.

If an emergency arises while customers and employees are still in your store, it’s important to make sure you can secure their own safety as well. Post evacuation routes in visible places, and have a designated meeting place where you can keep account of everyone and inform emergency responders of any missing persons.

In the event of an extended emergency like a disease outbreak, make sure you give ample time for you and your employees to prepare for temporary store closure if needed. Remove items that may spoil from your inventory, ensure employees have all their belongings, and keep your store locked and under surveillance in case anyone adopts a looting mentality. 

8.    Decide Whether to Close Your Business or Remain Open

Unfortunately, some emergencies may require you to close your business. While many businesses can remain open by allowing employees to work remotely, convenience stores don’t have the same options. Advanced cloud-based retail management software can assist store owners working from home and conducting back-office tasks, but aside from that, you may need to make the tough decision about whether or not to close your business for the time being.

Protect your business when closing the store by planning ahead before a disaster should strike. Make a list of what areas of business you need to prepare for, and what steps you can take to make it easier on yourself and your employees when you reopen.

Areas to prioritize include:

  • Finances
  • Technology
  • Property
  • Inventory
  • Operations

If you decide to keep your business open, make sure you have the proper technology and sources of power should you lose your supply. It might be a good idea to invest in a generator if you are in an area that is susceptible to poor weather conditions. Also ensure you have proper signage and communication to let customers and first responders know you’re open.

9.    Reopen Your Business

Once the catastrophe has passed and it’s time to reopen your business, remember that safety always comes first. Assess your store for major damage that could be hazardous. After that, look at your power and fuel supply to see if there could be any issues to address with professional contractors or engineers.

Take a look at your store technology and make sure you don’t need to contact your technology provider. Your technology infrastructure is vital to store operations, so for this reason, it’s important to ensure you work with a reputable software provider that offers a robust support plan to minimize downtime.

After that, take a look at resources like inventory, finances, and labor and determine what you need to do and which vendors you need to contact to ensure you can be up and running quickly and easily.

10. Learn and Grow with Your Emergency Plan

Continually reassess your store and be dedicated to improving your plan as you grow your business. Ensure employees are well-trained and that everyone keeps up-to-date with procedures. Educate your staff on what to do and who to contact in an emergency situation. Emergencies aren’t predictable, so as much as you value emergency preparedness, it’s also important to value adaptability.

Partner with an Industry Expert

Since 2002, Petrosoft has been creating convenience store management solutions designed to create an efficient retail ecosystem and help you meet the demands of today’s customers in order to maximize profitability. Contact us today to find out more about what our technology can do for your business.