You've invested all of your time and resources into making your business work.

You have a dedicated customer base and well trained, loyal staff, and you've strived to maintain your property at the highest standard.

Your reputation for paying your suppliers and providing your services efficiently and professionally is impeccable, and you're a member in good standing of your local community.

When you think about the impact crisis events can have on your business, it's important to consider your critical resources and the steps you can take to safeguard them.

This section will guide you through questions and topics to help you safeguard your business's critical resources.

Securing the right insurance

In deciding which policies, and what level of insurance to take out, a business needs to:

  • Decide how much the business can afford to pay for insurance without impacting on profit targets.
  • Assess whether the business has the adequate backup for key personnel, in the event of injury or other absences – if so, you may not need key person insurance.
  • Set a budget for insurance premiums after receiving advice and quotations from brokers or agents.
  • Decide on the critical areas of cover to remain competitive with other tourism businesses. For example, some contract services, such as running tours for schools or delivering corporate event management, may require some types of insurance to be in place, including public liability and professional indemnity.

Do your research

An insurance broker who is experienced in business insurance may be able to help you undertake a risk assessment to identify the parts of your business that are most vulnerable and critical to your business continuity plan. The cost of insurance cover may be cheaper if you have undertaken a risk assessment and developed a risk management plan.

To ensure you get the policy that's most suited to your business needs, research products provided by a range of insurance providers and read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) carefully to ensure you understand exactly what your insurance policy covers and under what circumstances.

Business insurance checklist

Public liability insurance

Public liability insurance protects your business against legal liability for any damage or harm caused by your business to customers or the public. A single compensation claim can be high enough to cause your business to close.

Public liability insurance to the value of $10 million is standard in the tourism industry. Your insurance policy should note the range of activities you provide in your business. Also, if you subcontract any activities, you should ensure that your contractors have adequate Public Liability Insurance cover.

Home business insurance

For tourism operators who run their business from home, it's worth noting that a home insurance policy may not cover your business operations. For example, it may exclude:

  • public liability for customers visiting your home
  • replacement of business equipment
  • replacement of damaged or lost stock
  • damage or loss of goods in transit

Find out from your insurer or insurance broker if you need additional cover. It may result in higher premiums or a request to upgrade certain services in your home, such as adding a safe. If you don't discuss it with your insurer – it may render your policy invalid.

Business interruption insurance

Business interruption insurance provides compensation if an interruption to the business, such as a natural or man-made disaster, causes a reduction in profits. This kind of insurance is additional to basic property insurance, but for revenue losses to be covered, they must be seen to be a direct result of the type of property damage covered by your policy.

This type of insurance helps to ensure that:

  • anticipated net profit is maintained
  • continuing overheads are paid
  • key employee wages are paid
  • additional working costs are covered – in some cases

Keep in mind:

  • Some Victorian tourism operators discovered after the 2009 bushfires their level of business interruption insurance did not cover what they thought it did.
  • General policies will cover you for an interruption to the business if your property is damaged and you cannot trade. However, in the instance where roads to your business are closed to traffic, and visitors can't get to your business, some policies will cover the resulting loss of trade, while others won't.
  • Consultation with insurance advisors has indicated that operators should look carefully at the fine print in their business interruption insurance policy and find out exactly what they are covered for. Most comprehensive policies would cover an insured business under both instances.
  • To make a claim, insurers would require an examination of your business financials and, for a claim in the instance of road closures, confirmation of the level of an inability of customers to get to your premises (for example evidence that roads were blocked by authorities or roads dug up).

Safeguarding your staff and clients

You'll need to think about the following risks as they affect your staff and clients.

Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004

Be aware of your obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.

Under this Act, all employers must exercise a duty of care to ensure the safety of staff and visitors when on their property, or undertaking a service provided by the business.

To help understand your obligations, information is available from WorkSafe Victoria. These include:

Safety first

There are many different types of crisis. Some events will lead to staff and clients feeling fearful for their own safety and some will mean that staff will worry about their jobs. You should expect that there will be a lot of anxiety and plan how you will address it.

Promote family and individual preparedness

Encourage your employees and their families to develop plans at home. If individuals are prepared at home, they'll have more time to assist with a business's recovery after a disaster.

Inform your visitors

Under the provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, you must exercise a duty of care to ensure the safety of visitors when on your property.

This is likely to include making them aware of the natural risks or hazards to your business and surrounding area. Visitors will feel reassured that the site is acting responsibly and has given consideration to their safety.

All communication should consider any special needs of your visitors and should cater to those who speak a language other than English.

Prepare information for visitors such as:

  • what to do in an emergency
  • where evacuation meeting points are located
  • relevant emergency contact numbers

This information could be displayed as:

  • information on a board at reception
  • handout to visitors
  • a flyer in a visitor information book
  • a notice displayed on a door
  • instructions communicated to participants on an outdoor tour (these instructions should be written down somewhere)

You'll also need to consider how you will communicate updates to your clients about an environmental risk such as Total Fire Ban days during the bushfire season and severe weather warning.

Prepare you property

Dedicate time to protect your physical assets from natural disasters. Whether you rent or own your business premises, you should inspect the physical plant and assess the impact a natural disaster would have on your facilities.

There are many things you can do to protect your property. Some are simple and temporary, while others involve permanent structural work.

In high risk areas, consider an investment to make your property more resistant to the relevant natural hazard. If you live in a flood prone region, consider installing flood protection products.

Potential crisis events

Visit the potential crisis events page for information on possible natural hazards and how to assess the risk of them affecting your business. If you aren't sure whether your property or business is at risk from disasters caused by natural hazards, check with your local council.

Once you have an idea of what potential crisis events you are at risk of, spend time preparing your property as required.

Victoria's State Emergency Services (SES) provides detailed information on how to prepare for different crisis events such as flood, storm and earthquakes.

For bushfire property preparedness, download and read the:

Prepare yourself mentally

Have you thought about how you can prepare yourself and your staff for the mental and emotional challenges of a crisis event? Your capacity to manage your stress can have a big impact on how employees and customers respond to the threat of an emergency.

The good news is that taking the time to prepare for a crisis event will improve your mental readiness if a crisis occurs. The best way to do this is to prepare an emergency management plan.

Having an emergency management plan on hand also reassures you that you have resources to manage the event. Regaining some sense of control during an emergency, like knowing how to communicate, will help reduce uncertainty and anxiety.

How to help staff cope with stress

To help prepare you and your staff mentally and emotionally:

  • Involve as many staff members as possible in the creation of your emergency management plan; this will build ownership and understanding.
  • Build your employees personal needs into your plan.
  • Work out how you are going to monitor information on high risk days.
  • Ensure your plan assesses the ability of employees to deal with the stress.
  • Practice the plan to help you and your employees respond automatically and appropriately.

Personal preparedness

  • Practice good self-care and healthy habits.
  • Stress and fear send hormones to your body that need to be flushed from your system in order to relax after the crisis passes.
  • Healthy eating, lots of water (and less caffeine), good sleep and exercise enhance your body's ability to reset those hormone levels and ease feelings of anxiety.
  • Work on noticing your emotions.
  • Don't suppress emotions. They are survival messages from your body. If you're feeling anxious, there is a reason.
  • Instead, work on tolerating difficult emotions without automatically reacting. This will help you manage stressful emotions caused by disasters.

Things to remember:

  • Crisis events or times of high risk may bring back feelings of anxiety.
  • Professional help is available if you are unable to cope.
  • Stay informed – access to information will help you cope better.
  • Preparing an emergency management plan will also help you cope better.

Where to get help

If at any time you're worried about your mental health or the mental health of your employees, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Reach out to these services to get the help you need:

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