COVID-19 business planning checklist

March 12, 2020

Coronavirus business planning - based on FEMA guidance and best practices

If you have not instituted a business continuity plan, it is critical that businesses get a plan in place immediately. Below are some business continuity tips that we are providing to assist you in supplementing or updating your plan. Having a business continuity plan in place will ensure your company continues to function at a high level even in the worst scenario.

Continuity Planning

  • Identify staff members who can accurately assess how your company functions, both internally and externally—and employees, materials, procedures and equipment that are essential to keep the business operating. Identify operations critical to survival and recovery. Include emergency payroll, expedited financial decision making and accounting systems to track and document costs in the event of an unexpected business incident and assign each task to a manager who will be responsible for that function for the duration of the event. 
  • Establish procedures for succession of management including at least one person who is not at the company headquarters, if possible. Practice worst case scenario planning—it is very possible someone from your leadership team will be unavailable, so plan for contingency if that person serves a critical role.  
  • Decide which employees will be involved in pulling together your emergency plan. Include co-workers from all levels in your organization and use them as active members of the emergency management team; don’t overlook interns and new employees-they may recognize a vital function that could be overlooked. Consider a broad cross-section of employees but focus on employees with expertise vital to daily business functions.

 Dealing with Clients and Service

  • Compile a list of your key customers and establish a plan to serve them for the duration. Since it is impossible at this time to know long that will be, plan for at least four to six months and identify priorities for each.

Suppliers, Vendors, Contractors

  • Identify key suppliers, vendors, contractors, banks and any other businesses you must interact with on a daily basis. If there are any that serve a critical role, consider developing a professional relationship with more than one company in case they are compromised and cannot service your needs. A disaster that shuts down a key supplier or vendor can be devastating to your business. 

Quarantine and Premises

  • If any of your employees are identified as having even casual contact with anyone known to have Coronavirus, your facility may be involuntarily shut down. Plan what you will do if your building, plant or office is not accessible. Define crisis management procedures and individual responsibilities in advance. Talk with your staff or co-workers and frequently review and practice what you intend to do during and after an emergency.

Communications and Emergency Planning for Employees 

  • Your employees are your most valuable asset. Open lines of communication are essential before, during, and after any incident. Share emergency preparedness information and virus updates with employees in newsletters, on company intranet, periodic employee emails and other internal communications tools. Consider setting up a password-protected page on the company website, an email or text message alert or a call-in voice recording to communicate with employees in an emergency. Designate an “800” number or conference line that can be used to communicate in the event of a quarantine with designated call times.

Crisis Communication Plan 

  • Detail how your organization plans to communicate with employees, local authorities (identify point of contact for emergency services and first responders), customers and others for the duration of the event. Give employees information on how you will communicate when and how to report to work following an emergency. Make sure senior management has all relevant information and who will communicate updates to the public. Inform clients/customers if you anticipate delays in service (and communicate clearly how and when products will be received or services rendered). If you are able to provide assistance to the community, communicate with officials what your company is prepared to do to help in the recovery effort. Also communicate with local, state and federal authorities what emergency assistance is needed for you to continue essential business activity.

Meetings and Conferences 

If there is an outbreak in your city or county, follow your local government’s guidelines regarding meetings. If there is not an outbreak in your city or county, follow federal restrictions regarding meetings and travel within the United States.

  • If you are hosting in-person meetings and conferences, establish criteria and timeframes for making decisions about whether to continue to hold these events. Consider web conferencing tools to hold online meetings. Some conferences may offer a webcast viewing option as an alternative to in-person meetings. 
  • Determine whether staff will attend meetings and conferences. Consult the latest travel guidance (see section below) as they prepare for upcoming conferences, conventions, trade shows and exhibitions. 

Travel – National and International

  • Travel within the US:  Management should use common sense for employees planning any travel and verify meetings/conferences or events have not been canceled prior to leaving. This is a good resource for updates: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel
  • International travel: To determine how to handle international travel consult the Department of State Travel Advisory Levels chart and color-coded map and check with your airline. 
  • Travel Insurance: If you or your employees must travel, investigate travel insurance. Keep in mind that not all travel insurance covers pandemics. Policies that do cover pandemics may not be available after a known breakout.

Facilities, Buildings, Property and Insurance 

  • Review your business insurance coverage and understand your deductibles, if applicable. Consider how you will pay creditors and employees. If you are the business owner or principal, you should also plan how you will provide for your own income. Finally, find out what records your insurance provider will want to see after an incident and store them in a safe place.
  • Determine who will be in charge of the premises in the event you need to close suddenly. Consider the ways in which people, products, supplies and other things get into and leave your building or facility; make sure all entrances and exits are secure.  Identify what machinery, computers, custom parts or other essential equipment is needed to keep the business up and running – and what (if anything) needs to be moved in the event the building will be closed. 

Business Recovery 

  • The Trump Administration is reviewing actions to aid businesses in recovery to mitigate the impact and financial losses. The U.S. Small Business Administration is a great resource for businesses seeking assistance after an incident. 
  • Note – Cyber criminals usually kick into high gear during a crisis, emergency or other event. Remind employees to stay vigilant and delete any unsolicited “COVID-19” updates they receive – and never open any attachments.

Sources: 

Note: Thank you to the CEO of the Rhode Island Society of CPAs, who has experience working with FEMA and shared this information with us. We’ve adapted portions of this content to be as relevant as possible for Oklahoma employers.