Planning for Disaster is Essential for Protecting Your Spa


We often picture disasters as they’re portrayed in the movies: roiling cyclones or blazing fires. But the truth is, catastrophes come in major and minor forms, and if you don’t have a backup plan in place, their negative impact could have a costly effect on your business. Even if you haven’t experienced one or more of the following scenarios, you’ll want to prepare for each situation—just in case.

Natural Disasters

Earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and fires can happen— and along with them come property damage, disruption and possible injury. Unfortunately, more than 40 percent of businesses never reopen after a major disaster, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Even more shocking: Two years later, only 29 percent of those that reopen remain operational. To avoid becoming a statistic, have an emergency response plan in place. According to the Department
of Homeland Security’s Ready Campaign, you’ll first need to conduct a risk assessment to identify potential emergency scenarios, allowing you to develop plans and procedures to prepare staff (think: fire drills, taking shelter for tornados, shelter-in-place for chemical clouds and lockdown for violence).

You’ll want to have a first aid kit and fire extinguishers that employees can easily access and know how to use. Also, outline an evacuation strategy for staff, appoint an “evacuation leader,” hold periodic practice drills and make the plan easily visible to everyone on the premises. Should you need guidance in drafting an evacuation
plan and procedures, the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) offers handy tools at osha. gov. You can also reach out to your local fire and police departments for know-how and to find out what their projected response time is for specific types of disasters.

Be sure to have up-to-date emergency contact information, as well. Names, phone numbers and addresses for all staff and clients should be uploaded to a cloud service that you can access no matter where you’re displaced. When Kingwood Nails & Spa in Kingwood, Texas, flooded in Hurricane Harvey, an emergency communications plan helped owner Vincent Nguyen remotely assess damage from people on site, as he was out of the state at the time. “Once we returned, we immediately had to clean out the salon and see what was salvageable so that we could contact local distributors and begin the rebuilding process,” he says.

Delving into the aftermath of the disaster requires a plan, too. Set up protocols for assessing damage, salvaging items, protecting undamaged property and cleanup. If you need help for post-disaster site management, FEMA provides resources to guide you through the planning process at Although Nguyen didn’t have flood insurance due to the spa location not being in a flood zone, he now believes talking through all possible scenarios with an insurance company is vital preparation for natural disasters. “That way, when the unexpected happens, you’ll be in a better place,” he says.

Employee Illness

A last-minute sick day request from a team member is preferred to employees spreading illness at work. Why? Sick employees are less productive, less attentive to safety and less likely to produce quality work, all of which can seriously impact your business, according to Commerce Clearing House (CCH), a provider of human resources and employment law services. In order to discourage “presenteeism” (i.e., employees showing up to work sick), develop a protocol that endorses staying
at home when ill and educate staff members about why this benefits the business. Then, make sure that you, as the owner or manager, lead by example.

Of course, when a team member is out sick, instituting client rescheduling procedures is imperative. This includes making these known in person and online during the booking process. “My staff notifies me right away if they’re sick so we have time to call clients,” says Somer Adams, owner of La Bella Salon in Glastonbury, Connecticut. “We give them the option to book with someone else or reschedule.”

That said, when an illness is last minute (such as the burst appendix one of Adams’ employees suffered), clients might not get the message before showing up.
In these instances, says Adams, “Our plan is to always accommodate. We offer whatever we can do in the time allotted, and that keeps people happy.”

spa-emergency-kitClient Injury

A fall, an allergic reaction, a cut: Most client injuries can be prevented, but if they do happen, you’ll want to be proactive. First, make sure you have general liability insurance. “It’s not that expensive—especially for independent contractors, who should really have it, but tend not to invest in this coverage,” says Adams. “It will save you should anything happen.”

Ask first-time clients to provide emergency contacts and fill out a health history card that alerts you to allergies or medical issues that could be impacted by spa services. Again, make sure employees know where the first aid kit is located and how to use it, and that they can access emergency contact information in the event an owner or manager isn’t there.

The Ready Campaign recommends having a CPR-trained employee (typically the manager) take over in life-threatening incidents. And, although an opioid overdose might not be top of mind, Joanne Sorbello, owner of Stone Ridge Salon in Stone Ridge, New York, says she’s currently mulling over Narcan training. “Due to a recent incident, I’m thinking we as business owners/professionals may need to take this type of training in case of an unexpected emergency,” she laments.

Equipment Failure

Spas depend on a variety of tools, and when the power goes out—wham!—you’re at a standstill. In such cases, it’s good to have rechargeable, cordless equipment, as well as access to your clients’ contact information via your cell phone (take a picture of a contact sheet, if need be) to reschedule anyone.
Burst pipes happen, too, and Sorbello says that you can mitigate the fallout by knowing where to turn off the water, ensuring employees know how to carefully evacuate clients so they don’t slip and tasking staff with safely unplugging all electrical items. “Plus, it’s extremely important to maintain relationships with plumbers and electricians; you never know when you’ll need them,” she notes.

As for a downed software scheduling system, instate a recovery plan for your data. Ask your software vendor whether it provides a “hot site” for IT disaster recovery, which notifies them of an outage and automatically stores your data until you can restore your system. Adams opted for web-based SalonTarget, which allows all employees to get their schedules on their smartphones. “Owners and receptionists can access the complete system from their phones, too, plus we have the main computer and three iPads. We also print a hard copy of the schedule every month— just in case,” she says. In addition, research payment systems that have an offline mode. For example, the Square system will automatically queue payments swiped offline and process them once your connection is restored.

But one of the biggest precautions you can take is backing up your spa’s data daily, either to a cloud service or an external drive. “I have an automatic backup sent to an external hard drive every two hours,” says Sorbello. “I also have an extra laptop that has a version of the scheduling software preloaded to it in case my main computer melts down. Computers will crash with zero warning; this should be expected.”

–by Karie L. Frost


[Images: iStock]

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