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How Businesses Can Help Protect Themselves Against Civil Unrest

The COVID-19 pandemic is already a big burden on businesses trying to engage in commerce, whether retailers, restaurants, manufacturers or those in the service sector. Civil unrest puts additional strain on surviving the downturn. Based on recommendations from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Small Business Administration, businesses can prepare for civil unrest.

While the British firm Verisk Maplecroft predicts that 75 countries will see civil unrest in 2020, the United States has already seen its fair share recently. The future intensity of civil unrest cannot be predicted, but businesses can take steps to plan for and mitigate against such events.

For businesses, the first priority is to ensure employees and customers are not put in harm’s way. If a dangerous situation happens quickly and without warning, there are some steps business owners can take to mitigate the threat.

  • Plan ahead for travel disruptions by keeping an eye on local media reports and online/social media. This information can help inform employees and customers not to go to work or order online if a retail outlet or office location is subject to civil unrest.
  • Ensure that all workers are familiar with emergency and security plans. This might include having current contact information to reach employees before they go to work or giving them time to leave before the situation escalates.

Another recommendation is to take steps against arson, break-ins, and property damage. For one, business owners can teach employees to maintain vigilance against the out-of-the-ordinary activity. They should also review security and fire protection systems, understand how alarm companies will notify business owners, and be aware of what steps the monitoring companies will take to mitigate against burglary and/or fire. It is a good practice to reinforce locks and board up areas vulnerable to damage or easier to access during civil riots (e.g., protect glass doors and windows).

If first responders take longer than normal to arrive, it is important to take measures to reduce the chance of serious and unintended damages from the civil unrest. Be it water, gas, electrical or related systems, turning off all but necessary utilities (e.g., water for sprinklers; enough heat to prevent freezing pipes; power for an alarm system) could reduce the risk of additional damage.

Along with having a commercial insurance policy that includes looting as a covered peril, one other important part of a business continuity plan is the storage of important documents. Will they be stored on-premises in a safe? Will they be stored online, in the cloud and encrypted? Will they be stored offsite in a secure location?

Much like other disasters that often happen with little to no warning, businesses that prepare before civil unrest occurs can help reduce the amount of property damaged and help get their operations back to pre-crisis levels.