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Emergency Business Plan Checklist

April 27, 2020
Written by Nextdoor Editorial Team
April 27, 2020 | Written by Nextdoor Editorial Team

Emergency Business Plan Checklist 

All businesses will experience hardship and emergency situations. These may involve unforeseen disasters, like a fire starting in a neighboring building and causing severe damage to yours. It can involve financial emergencies, like an unexpected employee or customer lawsuit. Or there can be a sudden halt in operations due to a pandemic virus, like COVID-19.

Businesses that weather the storm in times of emergency do so with proper preparedness and a plan that minimizes losses. 

What’s included in an emergency business plan? Let’s dive in.


Preparedness and COVID-19

All around the world, the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has had a profound impact on daily life. While the spread of the infection has been rapid, experts remain hopeful that we are on track to flatten the curve.

Beyond the incalculable human toll of the medical emergency, the pandemic has had economic implications, as well. Businesses of all sizes are reckoning with their own personnel, clientele, leadership, partners, and many other stakeholders facing various medical, financial, and other hardships.

While it hasn’t been easy on anyone, this is a time for resilience and hope.

We will get through this, together. And when we do, it will be because we all chipped in and helped the community. To that effect, let this guide help you support others, and garner their support, to make it through.

Please note that, while this guide is applicable to any potential emergency your local business may face, it pays special attention to elements all businesses—big, small, local, multinational—are facing right now related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, let’s get started!


The Essentials for Any Emergency

For any emergency your local business may face, there are some things you need to make sure you have in place. You need to ensure that you:

  • Understand emergency circumstances
    • Risks
    • Needs
    • Resources
  • Secure business
    • Inventory
    • Supply
    • Distribution
    • Records
  • Plan finances
    • Insurance
    • Emergency Funds
  • Establish communication
    • With customers, clients, etc.
    • With staff
    • With partners, suppliers, etc.
    • With all existing contacts
    • With potential contacts
  • Anticipate dynamic, complex changes
    • Contingency plans
    • Flexibility
  • Go digital
    • Update website, social media, Nextdoor Business Page
    • Update business hours and services

Now let’s look at what each of these checklist items means and how to make sure you’re covering all of them.


Understand Emergency Circumstances

The first step to any kind of preparation is knowledge. As the owner of a local business, you will likely already have a great understanding of your local community. With respect to emergency readiness, though, it’s important to have an in-depth knowledge of:

  • The specific risks facing your business: What kinds of risk is your local business exposed to? This includes general risks facing all businesses, as well as anything specific to your local environment.
  • The essential needs of your business: What elements of your business are truly essential? What could you not do without?
    The resources available to your business: What sources of aid are available in your local community? What is available to you at the state and federal levels?

Once you have the knowledge, it’s time to act on it.

Secure Your Business

After assessing your risks, needs, and resources, it’s important to make sure you have security measures in place for all the major elements of your business. In practice, this means ensuring that you can maintain, store, replace, or otherwise account for:

  • Your inventory if you sell products, or supplies needed for your services
  • Your lines and methods of supply
  • Your means for distribution or transportation
  • Your record keeping
  • Anything else associated with your day-to-day business

Much of this might involve your lines of and network for communication.

Build Communication

In the event of an emergency, communication is key. In uncertain times, it is better to err on over-communication than under-communication. So, you need to make sure you build clear lines of communication.

You need one form of communication for all internal dialogue (between employees, leadership, and partners). Additionally, appoint a designated contact for external communications who will assist customers, clients, and partnering businesses (even if that point-of-contact is you).

Seek to build this network of communication prior to an emergency. That way, you can deploy it immediately when the time comes. 

Plan Finances

The financial impact of an emergency is one of hardest parts for any business to weather. Luckily, there are two main resources tailored to helping out in emergency scenarios:

  • Insurance: Make sure your insurance covers as many scenarios and contingencies as possible, based upon your assessment of your risks. In the face of the coronavirus, many businesses are finding out that their business interruption insurance doesn’t cover mandatory shutdowns—only physical damage that interrupts business. In fact, Insureon reports that there isn’t really any coverage that could have covered the coronavirus unless a pandemic-specific policy was written in. 
  • Emergency funds: Make sure you have knowledge about, and access to, emergency funding, such as specialty loans or credit lines.

As a general principle, being able to liquify or otherwise quickly acquire cash, facilitating rapid, substantial financial moves, is a big part of the flexibility you need to have in any kind of emergency.

Anticipate Dynamic, Complex Changes

Even the best-made plans have the potential to falter when circumstances, foreseen or not, muddy the waters. 

Planning isn’t a static activity that you finish up and then never revisit. You need to be vigilant, regularly revisiting your plans and ensuring that they are up to date. It’s arduous, meticulous work, but it’s essential.

The work of planning is what matters: attuning yourself to the need for preparation—for flexibility—is ultimately what will help you make it through emergencies.


Going Digital

Even in regular circumstances, every business can benefit from an online presence. eCommerce numbers rise every year, making up 16% of all retail spend in 2019. And this trend is only going to continue to rise as more customers become accustomed to booking classes, buying groceries, and doing more through their phones. 

An online presence can be especially important for businesses in times like these, when observing social distancing and sheltering in place means that many businesses can’t keep their brick and mortar stores open, and fewer people are on the streets to even access the businesses that are open.

Online, you’re always open.

Having an online presence allows you to do things around the clock. For instance, your online presence can help with: 

  • Advertising
  • Outreach
  • Customer support
  • Commerce

Additionally, with an online presence, you can enhance your communication:

  • Start conversations with individuals or groups
  • Provide personalized customer support
  • Share information you think your customers will value
  • Interact with comments and reviews about your local business

During the coronavirus pandemic, however, you might even be able to expand what your business can do on the internet.

Providing, remotely

One great way to grow your customer base remotely is by beginning, or expanding, online sales. If you sell goods or services, consider making your products available for online purchase with options for delivery or pickup. If you offer specific services, consider creative avenues to offer the same resources digitally. Whether that’s offering cooking classes as a chef, or providing daily exercise tips as a local gym—the goal is to provide value remotely.

Additionally, as a way to improve your customer service, consider using digital technologies like video conferencing and audio- or text-based online chat. Some examples of how small local businesses can leverage these technologies include but are not limited to:

  • Virtual classroom teaching
  • Subject-based tutoring
  • Counseling and therapy
  • Personal training and fitness classes
  • Instructional guides and conferences
  • Live performances

You might be surprised by how much more your business can do online.


Another great benefit of an online presence is the way it opens up opportunities for crowdfunding, or sourcing funds from various networks. By setting up a page on GoFundMe or other crowdfunding sites, you can allow your extended community to help you in times of need. Plug the link on your various digital channels—website, social media, your Nextdoor Business Page. 


Nextdoor: Your Neighborhood Hub

Nextdoor is your neighbors’ and neighborhood’s home, just online.

Whether you run an antique shop, a bed and breakfast, a deli, a laundromat, or any local business, you depend upon your community. Your neighborhood is who you serve, and it’s your neighbors, your most valuable customers, who support your business.

A Nextdoor Business Page is a simple and free option for connecting with your local community and learning how to navigate business during COVID-19.

As a neighborhood hub, Nextdoor provides an infrastructure that keeps people connected in, and to, their neighborhood. That includes the local businesses that help make up the fabric of every neighborhood.


Survive and Thrive

Emergencies—natural disasters, economic disruptions, pandemics, etc.—are serious ordeals, for people and businesses. Urgent circumstances can lead to people's compromised ability to engage in normal social activities. It’s not that people don’t want to patronize their local bars and mom & pop grocers. They often just can’t.

But it’s also times like these that bring out the best in people—and in businesses.

People want to support their local business, emergency or no emergency. As a local business, do whatever you can to continue building customer relationships and supporting the community, however you can, so they can in turn keep supporting you. So check off everything on the list above, and keep doing what makes your local business a key part of your community!


If you are a local business, claim your free Business Page to get started on Nextdoor. Resources on how to use Nextdoor to stay connected with your local customers during coronavirus, pertinent news affecting businesses, and more, are available in our Small Business Guide for Coronavirus Relief.

Claim your free Business Page to get started on Nextdoor. For resources on how to use Nextdoor to stay connected with your local customers, pertinent news affecting business, and more, follow us at @nextdoorbusiness on Facebook

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