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What to Do Before Disaster Strikes

What to Do Before Disaster Strikes

Car dealers should create a business-continuity plan to mitigate damages and losses. 

Many residents and business owners in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, as well as the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and other Caribbean nations are struggling to pick up the pieces after the catastrophic events of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

Many business owners lost both their homes and their livelihoods. However, many auto dealers in the affected areas fared much better than others because of one simple word: preparation.

You never know when disaster will strike. Whether it’s a hurricane, a devastating fire, an earthquake or even a terrorist attack, some things just cannot be avoided.

In those instances, it is the prepared dealer who best weathers the proverbial storm. In today’s connected world, it is mission critical that all dealers have a business-continuity plan in place for even the slightest of service interruptions.

As an auto dealer, there are many things to consider when facing an impending disaster. Obviously, we can prepare for some events more than others.

For example, if a dealership is in the path of an impending hurricane, consider the option of relocating vehicle inventory from the sales lot to a safe location or risk losing your entire stock to flood waters, flying debris, downed trees, etc.

However, some things you won’t see coming in advance. Fires, such as the ones in California, or earthquakes can occur without warning and take out an entire building along with inventory, supplies, communications systems and more.

Having already helped hundreds of dealers responsible for more than 1,000 rooftops prepare for Harvey, Irma and Maria, the crisis-response team at CDK Global has been working 24 hours a day for the better part of a month to ensure affected dealers get back up and running as quickly as possible.

With a steady stream of news regarding natural disasters such as Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, as well as the Mexico City earthquakes, here are some things to include in a business-continuity plan that will ensure the interruption of business and the lives of employees is kept to a minimum in a time of crisis.

First, gather emergency contact information for all employees. The most important thing in a time of crisis is the health and safety of the people affected. Buildings can be rebuilt and equipment and inventory can be replaced, but the same can’t be said about human life.

Have emergency contact information on hand for all employees in order to account for everyone’s whereabouts in the aftermath of a disaster.

Second, properly shut down and protect all critical systems. Doing that in a proper and timely fashion, as well as unplugging equipment from wall outlets, ensures a dealership will be up and running without any loss of data once the imminent threat has passed and power has been restored.

In addition, wrapping or covering all key equipment with plastic will help protect against water damage.

Third, guarantee access to backup power. As we’re seeing, some areas are hit worse than others, and some will be without power for an extended period. To prepare for worst-case, have at least one backup generator to power all crucial systems and equipment.

Fourth, create payroll redundancy. During a time of crisis, it’s not just your dealership and your business that will suffer. As employees are likely to be hit hard in their personal lives, every dollar means that much more in the recovery phase. Payroll redundancy allows you to take care of them, regardless of the current state of affairs. Most importantly, it provides peace of mind to everyone affected.

Life can throw us surprises. Dealerships that prepare for the worst may not be immune to every negative impact. But they find recovery is faster if they are ready for at least some of what could happen. An ounce of prevention goes a long way when disaster strikes.

Ken Ragsdale is vice president-Network Solutions for CDK Global, and served as the cross-functional incident commander overseeing the teams helping automotive dealers during the preparation, assessment and recovery efforts for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. He has also been active for years in mountain search and rescue operations in Oregon and Washington.

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