JCK Show: Preparing for disasters

The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks have made businesses, including jewelers, more mindful of unexpected disasters and the need for emergency plans to deal with them, said John J. Kennedy, president of the 18,000-member Jewelers’ Security Alliance, in his Thursday seminar on disaster planning.

But emergencies and disasters take many forms besides terrorism, including floods, hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, explosions (as happened recently in a Chicago building with 60 jewelry businesses), riots, and biochemical scares.

The three major considerations in an emergency, said Kennedy, are protection of personnel, protection of property, and continued operation of essential business functions. Among the recommendations he gave jewelers:

* Store managers and other on-site personnel should have the authority to close the store and send employees home if local conditions warrant it. Stay informed through TV, radio, news, online sources, and information provided by police.

* Store owners and managers should keep a list of emergency phone numbers on their persons and at their homes. These numbers should include all employees, your building’s owner or manager, emergency vendors (e.g., glass, alarm, and electric companies), repair services, local police, and other jewelers. All employees should also have names of supervisors and co-workers to call in an emergency.

* Keep copies of books, records (including computer disks), and important, irreplaceable documents (e.g., customer lists, vendor lists, inventories, accounts receivable, and insurance polices) off-site, preferably some distance from your store or business. “This is information you need to conduct business from a remote location if all records are destroyed due to a disaster,” said Kennedy.

Other recommendations include a plan to re-route telephone calls in an emergency, regular fire drills and evacuation plans, locking all goods during an emergency to discourage looting, planning for an alternative site to do business (e.g., the jeweler’s home), and maintaining emergency equipment on your store premises, such as fully charged cell phones, flashlights, batteries, a portable radio, first aid kit, and bottled water.

“These steps can save your business or even your life in the face of an enormous tragedy,” said Kennedy.

Copies of the disaster planning recommendations are available free of charge from JSA at www.jewelerssecurity.org or by calling (800) 537-0067.