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Plan Now for the Unexpected


Most clubs have taken the smart and necessary steps to prepare emergency response plans to be ready for fires and other emergencies, but COVID-19 has certainly underscored the notion that clubs — and all types of businesses — should be ready for almost anything in today’s world. 

By preparing a comprehensive disaster response plan, clubs can be ready to mitigate the impact of any type of incident, even a public health emergency of the scale and scope of COVID-19. With lessons learned from the pandemic fresh in our minds, now is a perfect time to prepare.

Risk Assessment

The first step is to do a risk assessment. Where is your organization vulnerable and what types of emergencies could affect operations, damage your reputation or shut down your business? Make sure to evaluate all types of risks, from a fire or hurricane to a data breach, active shooter incident and public health emergency. 

Look back at how your organization responded to the COVID-19 outbreak to see what you did right and what could be improved. What resources do you need if it happens again? In every scenario, consider what you need to be prepared. 

Business Continuity Planning

Once you’ve evaluated your risks, you can plan the resources you need to keep your business running in any emergency. This includes generators for power outages and 72-hour emergency supply kits with medical supplies for earthquakes, tornadoes and other natural disasters.

Consider back-up communications and record retention, as well as what external resources you may need to fall back on when your internal operations are offline.


Beyond logistics, the first step in any emergency involves communications. Have a good communications system in place, including having key contacts at your disposal — vendors, bankers, contractors, legal counsel and insurance partner, among others. 

During COVID-19, some clubs also found having a public relations firm or communications consultant invaluable in helping communicate with members and employees, as well as in responding to media inquiries and managing social media channels. 


Finally, consider your financial resources. COVID-19 made clubs and all businesses take a fresh look at their financial resources and highlighted the need for cash flow management and a rainy day fund. How long can your club sustain a closure and reduced profit margins?

Now, clubs are facing a new challenge — the additional expenses needed to re-open. With the pandemic, this includes retraining staff, adding new staff for cleaning and disinfecting, and preparing for additional expenses for equipment and space modifications to accommodate physical distancing.

An Ounce of Prevention

Clearly, there’s much to think about when conducting an emergency planning process. While we may not know what challenge we’ll face next, one thing is certain: we need to be prepared. And those with a comprehensive disaster response plan will be better equipped to respond effectively.

Brian Rawlings

Brian Rawlings is Practice Leader for FITLIFE, which insures fitness facilities, health clubs & spas, for Venture Programs. He can be reached by phone at 800-282-6247 ext.323 or email: brawlings@ventureprograms.com.  

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