New Zealand is no stranger to natural disasters. The country is located in the Pacific Ring of Fire and experiences earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, and severe weather events. Natural disasters can significantly impact New Zealand’s economy, especially for businesses that rely on ecommerce. In this article, we will discuss some tips that Kiwi ecommerce businesses can follow to prepare for natural disasters.
1. Develop a business continuity plan
A business continuity plan (BCP) is a document that outlines how a business will continue to operate during and after a natural disaster. The BCP should include a risk assessment, emergency response, and recovery plans. It is essential to involve all stakeholders in the BCP development process, including employees, suppliers, and customers. A BCP will ensure that ecommerce businesses are more resilient and better prepared for natural disasters.
One of the critical components of a BCP is a comprehensive risk assessment, which involves identifying potential hazards and their potential impact on the business. This includes examining the risks associated with the location of the business, such as the likelihood of earthquakes, floods, or other natural disasters. By conducting a thorough risk assessment, businesses can develop a BCP tailored to their specific needs, considering their unique risks and challenges. Look into your city geo maps such as the Auckland Council Geomaps and LINZ reports to get an idea of areas at risk, including routes where your parcels are delivered.
2. Have a backup power supply
During a natural disaster power outages are common, which can affect ecommerce businesses’ ability to operate. A backup power supply such as a generator or uninterruptible power supply (UPS) can help businesses continue to work during a power outage.
A generator is a standalone power source that can provide electricity during a power outage. Generators can be powered by gasoline, diesel, or propane, and range in size from small, portable units to large, permanent installations. They can power critical systems such as servers, communications equipment, point-of-sale terminals and provide lighting and other essential services.
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Another option is an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), a backup power source that can provide power to critical systems during a power outage. A UPS typically consists of a battery backup and a surge protector, which can keep systems running for a short period until power is restored or until the generator can be started.
It’s important to keep backup power well-maintained, and to regularly test these systems to ensure their reliability during a power outage. Ecommerce businesses should also consider the fuel requirements and runtime of their backup power supply to ensure that it can sustain operations for an extended time.
3. Store data offsite
In a natural disaster, ecommerce businesses may lose valuable data, including customer information and transaction records. Storing data offsite, such as on cloud-based storage services, can help businesses to recover their data in the event of a disaster. It is also important to regularly back up data to ensure the most up-to-date information is available.
Cloud-based storage services offer advantages over on-premise storage, including better accessibility, scalability, and security. With cloud-based storage, businesses can easily access their data from anywhere with an internet connection and quickly scale their storage needs up or down as required. There are different cloud-based storage service types, including IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS.
- Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) is a cloud-based storage service that provides access to computing resources like servers, storage, and networking. It enables businesses to easily manage their IT infrastructure without investing in hardware or software. With this service, businesses can quickly deploy virtual machines and scale up or down as needed.
- Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) is a cloud-based storage service that provides the infrastructure, tools, and services needed to develop, test, and deploy applications. It enables businesses to easily access development tools without investing in hardware or software.
- Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is a cloud-based storage service that provides access to software applications. It enables businesses to access the latest software without purchasing, installing, or maintaining it on their own. With this service, businesses can access up-to-date applications and quickly scale up or down as needed.
It is also important for ecommerce businesses to regularly back up their data to ensure the most up-to-date information is available during a disaster. Data backups can be automated and routinely scheduled, ensuring that critical data is always up-to-date and accessible.
4. Have an alternative communication plan
During a natural disaster, communication networks may be disrupted, making it difficult for ecommerce businesses to communicate with customers and suppliers. An alternative communication plan, such as a backup phone system, two-way portable radios and a social media presence can help ecommerce businesses stay in touch with customers and stakeholders alike.
To mitigate this risk, ecommerce businesses should have a backup communication plan that includes alternative channels such as a secondary phone system or a social media presence. These can be effective methods of communicating with stakeholders when traditional approaches fail. A backup phone system can involve having a secondary phone line that operates on a different network, ensuring that communication can continue even if the primary network goes down.
5. Prepare for shipping disruptions
Natural disasters can disrupt shipping and logistics, affecting ecommerce businesses’ ability to fulfil orders. Ecommerce businesses should have a plan to address potential shipping disruptions, such as working with alternative suppliers or having backup inventory on hand.
Make sure to communicate potential shipping disruptions and unexpected natural disasters to customers. Providing customers with regular updates on their orders’ status and any changes in the estimated delivery date will help build trust and improve customer loyalty. Additionally, keep in contact with your courier provider to stay updated with weather forecasts and other potential disruptions that may affect operations. New Zealand Couriers keeps ecommerce businesses updated through the network status dashboard.
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6. Invest in insurance
Finally, ecommerce businesses should consider investing in insurance to protect against natural disasters. Insurance policies can help businesses recover from losses, such as property damage, inventory loss, and business interruption. It is important to review insurance policies regularly to ensure they adequately cover potential losses from natural disasters. This includes checking the policy limits, exclusions, and deductibles to provide coverage that aligns with the business’s risk management strategy.
Use the resources available for business owners to prepare for natural disasters here.
In addition to the above tips, there are several essential items that any business should have on hand during a natural disaster. These items can help businesses to maintain operations and support employees during an emergency. Some essential items include:
- Emergency survival kit with non-perishable food, bottled water, and basic first-aid supplies
- Emergency lighting, such as torches with spare batteries, lanterns, candles and matches
- Portable power banks and chargers for mobile devices
- Two-way portable radios or satellite phones for communication
- Hard copies of important documents such as insurance policies and business contracts
- Fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, and other safety equipment
- Sandbags or other flood protection measures if located in a flood-prone area
- If you have electric doors in the building or work in an electrically gated area, check you know how to perform a manual override.
With these essential items, businesses can be better prepared to manage the effects of natural disasters and support their employees during an emergency.
There are a few key steps to being prepared for when a disaster hits. A BCP plan will be one of the first steps, and alongside it, steps to protect data, keep the lights on and to maintain effective communication will be vital. Preparing for shipping disruptions and investing in appropriate insurance will also make bearing the brunt of a natural disaster a little easier. Keeping these steps in mind will ensure your business is resilient, robust, and ready for anything that comes its way.