Retailers face multiple challenges daily to keep their stores in optimum working order, and facility management is in itself a complex task. When faced with an unexpected disaster, management of facilities and business takes on a whole new dimension.

Disasters can take a serious toll on businesses, not just in the form of financial setbacks but also in the form of injuries, shortage of workers and even lost lives. In such situations, ensuring that the stores run smoothly and efficiently to prevent further loss of revenue can be difficult.

What is needed is effective disaster planning and management that will enable retailers to recover faster, pick up the pieces in the aftermath of the disaster and move on in record time. The plan should also factor in health and safety concerns, dealing with injuries and personal hygiene if people are stranded, dealing with environmental concerns like flooding, carbon monoxide, power outages and ultimately clean up.

So what does disaster management really entail? It focuses on limiting the impact of disaster so that suspended operations and losses in sales and inventory can be flipped over to normalcy.

It is important to understand that disaster and crisis management is an ongoing and exhaustive process that trains retailers and their immediate team to face and brace themselves against all kinds of disasters. These include floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, extreme heat and wildfires, landslides and even man-made ones like arson or terrorist attacks.

While normal operations are immediately suspended, panic and chaos combined with injuries and lives at stake can compound problems exponentially. A disaster management program offers extensive training and makes available the latest information and resources for retail facilities to be prepared to meet the challenge and contain the damage.

The Disaster Planning and Management Toolkit, released by the Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association in December 2012, is a compilation of webinars, instructional manuals and exhaustive guides that have been created in collaboration with various private and public agencies and other associations.

Retail facilities can effectively monitor the turbulence and upheaval that an approaching disaster can cause. This gives them timely warning, opportunity to protect and prepare their stores and employees. Since then, PRSM has come up with newer resources with the latest information and technology updates to help retail facilities function normally in the event of emergencies.

Key features of a disaster planning and management program:

  • Using sophisticated devices to anticipate and track natural disasters like storms
  • Taking preventive measures to ensure local protection like sand-bagging and boarding up windows
  • Powering back up to get stores back online faster, resolve issues and prevent loss of sales
  • Preplanning for immediate damage containment and restoration by working with restoration contractors who can assess damage and plan cleanup and repairs
  • Helping the community at large by having retail outlets up and running in no time so that people have access to safe and hygienic products and amenities

A comprehensive disaster plan is created out of the vast data and background information that is compiled, analyzed and then utilized by professional disaster management teams to ensure safety of both premises and personnel.

The USP of teams dealing with retail facilities is that they have additional knowledge of store operations and can use their resources to train every single branch of a retail outlet, from operations to human resources, marketing and PR, merchandising, finance and the executive offices among others.

The success of the plan lies in the exchange of information among the right people and communicating at the right time, which means addressing store personnel, executives and customers. Once everyone is prepped and prepared, professionals can step in to help them face the challenge and fix the damage caused by the disaster.