Alumni Experts: Keeping Your Business Running

The COVID-19 pandemic took the world by surprise in 2019. Even though agencies such as State and Local Emergency Management and Public Health departments have been planning for such an occurrence, it has still been a significant impact to our way of life. One area that is of profound impact is the closing of businesses who will never reopen. You probably know of a business that closed permanently due to the pandemic.

This is tough as we do not want our business to close for long, much less permanently. The good news is that there are ways to plan and prepare for these situations before they occur. In emergency management, we call this continuity of operations (COOP). The purpose and goal of COOP planning is to have a planned methodology of keeping business occurring even during these less-than-ideal times.

So how do we do COOP Planning?

1. Identify threats.

First, we must determine what risks and threats we are vulnerable to based on our location and nature of business. My business is in Buies Creek (Go Camels!). We are at risk for severe weather (severe thunderstorms, ice storms, hurricanes), cyberattacks and staffing limitations. It is hard to make an inclusive list, but we need to be as comprehensive as we can.

2. Understand effects.

This leads us to understand what effects a disaster can have on our business. The risks we face at On Target Preparedness (OTP) include power outage, inability to travel to client’s office (fuel limitations and costs, power outages) and lack of staff. This provides us particularly valuable information. What do we absolutely have to have to operate? Write them down. It could be electricity, a computer program, a minimum number of staff or other related items.

3. Develop responses.

For each of these impacts (e.g., power outage), we must work to develop responses to them. Using power outage for the example, how can we provide electricity to our business under all circumstances? We could purchase inexpensive battery backup systems. This would not be the end all, as these have limitations, too. Then we can look at generator power. Do we have funding to purchase and install a generator? We may have to look at what electrical items we do not need so we can purchase a smaller generator that would at least run those items that are absolutely needed.

Another example would be limited staffing. This was seen during the COVID 19 pandemic. Staff had to be isolated or quarantined for up to 21 days depending on what phase of the pandemic we were in at the time. I know of businesses that were down to 50% of their staffing levels. What options do we have here? OTP decided to increase our part time staffing, so we had a larger pool of people to call in for work. We could also reach out and make agreements with staffing agencies for assistance during these times. A final option would be to temporarily suspend anything that is not absolutely necessary. I know that some restaurants did this by offering drive through services but not opening the dining room area. This is not ideal but when we have our backs against the wall, we must do what we can to maintain a level of business.

4. Use your resources.

There are resources out there to help you to perform COOP planning. I would highly recommend reviewing the information FEMA has at  Do not worry about this planning being perfect. Focus on planning at any level so when (not if) we are impacted, we have already planned as much as we can to protect our business. This planning could be the difference between surviving through a disaster or closing your doors for good.

David Hesselmeyer (’02) is the President/CEO of On Target Preparedness LLC, a local full spectrum emergency services consulting firm. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree from ECU and many certifications in emergency services.

The Alumni Expert blog series distributes topical expert advice provided by members of the Orange Owned program. Orange Owned connects Campbell alumni with businesses owned and operated by fellow alumni. Visit our web page to learn more about Orange Owned, find local businesses near you or register your business:

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