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Prepare for the Worst

We have witnessed accounts of multiple major disasters lately.  Earthquakes, hurricanes, mudslides, flooding and fires are just a few events that have recently been in the news.  Are you prepared if a disaster should strike your business?  Sadly, some business owners think about protecting their assets after the tornado has struck.

 

Business owners should plan ahead for potential disasters.  It is critical for you to protect your business by identifying potential risks from natural and man-made disasters.  You should be pessimistic, this is the time to plan for the worst and hope for the best. 

 

Here are some suggestions if you are at risk for any of the following disasters:

 

Wildfire:

  • Maintain a 30 foot “combustible-free” zone around your facility.  Remove any trees and combustible material, such as brush.  Keep grass mowed and irrigated.
  • Consider the use of flame-resistant building materials when building or renovating.
  • Keep the roof and gutters clear of debris.
  • Attach non-flammable, fine-gauge screening over all chimneys.

 

Tornado:

  • Assign one person to be responsible for monitoring weather alers.
  • Establish interior, preferably basement, locations for employees to gather.  Bathrooms, corner, and short hallways are safest.
  • Remember, a “watch” means a tornado could happen and a “warning” means you should take immediate cover.
  • Keep surplus blankets in a shelter area.

 

Hurricane:

  • Have a method of notifying employees concerning work status before and after the storm hits.
  • Protect windows with storm shutters or install plywood over them.  Put masking tape over windows to reduce the risk of flying glass.
  • Consider evacuating vehicles in advance of the storm.  Put them in a garage or keep them outside, away from trees or other potential falling objects.
  • Bring outside signage, furniture, and decorations inside.
  • Remove damaged or diseased limbs from nearby trees.
  • Unplug all equipment and turn off the gas, electricity, and water.

 

Flooding:

  • Most standard insurance policies do not cover flood damage and the resulting loss of income.  Check with your insurance agent on how to ensure adequate protection.
  • Reduce damage and ease clean up by building with flood-resistant materials.
  • Check with local authorities to find out the 100 year flood level of your structure.
  • Consider working with a licensed contractor to raise electrical and HVAC system above the 100 year flood level mark.
  • Keep computers, electronics, and important files raised off the floor.
  • Consider working with a licensed plumber to install a backflow valve to prevent sewage backup.
  • Be prepared to move critical items above flood level during a flood watch.

 

Earthquake

  • Refer to your local building officials to ensure that your facility is up to code.
  • Use natural gas lines with flexible connections and automatic shut-off valves.
  • Use flexible water lines and /or couplings to toilets, sinks, and in sprinkler systems.
  • Secure equipment, including computers, to the floor or walls to prevent tipping.
  • Make sure anything with a drawer or door, like filing cabinets, has latches with a manual release.

 

What things are vital to running your business?  You need to protect them.  Create an all-inclusive disaster plan, update it regularly, and keep a copy at an off-site location.

 

Here is a helpful list:

 

Employees:

  • Identify an internal shelter in the event that authorities tell you to “shelter in place”.
  • Establish a single spokesperson to speak to media.
  • Document each employees’s function and emergency contact information.
  • Decide who is in charge when regular managers are unavailable.
  • Create a phone tree and designate individuals who will initiate the communication process.
  • Train your employees on the plan and review it with them regularly.

 

Customers:

  • Identify the likelihood that customers will be present if a disaster strikes.
  • Keep communications open.
  • Keep a copy of your customer records off-site.
  • Have an alternate worksite from which to communicate to customers during recovery.

 

Suppliers:

  • Maintain a contact list of all your suppliers.
  • Find out how they plan to supply you, if the supplier experiences a disaster.
  • Maintain a list of alternate suppliers.

 

Equipment:

  • Maintain an inventory of all equipment used by your business.
  • Keep a maintenance schedule for all equipment, as well as manufacturer ad service contact information for each.

 

Property:

  • Make sure your facility meets all local building and fire codes.
  • Know where utility shutoffs are located and how to operate them.

 

Records:

  • Document all processes that make your business run form answering the phones, to tracking finances, to distributing your product or service.
  • Develop a schedule for backing up all computer recordsd.
  • Keep current copies of all paper and computer files off-site and accessible.

 

Insurance:

  • Insurance coverage can mean the difference between reopening after a disaster strikes or having to close your doors.  Meet regularly with your agent to ensure you have adequate coverage and knowledge of how to quickly file a claim.
  • Consider a policy that will reimburse you for business disruptions in addition to physical losses.

 

Here are some resources that could save you time, money and even lives.  The more you learn about disaster preparation, the soon you will be able to get back to business should a disaster occur.

http://www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/loans-grants/small-business-loans/disaster-loans

www.redcross.org

www.fema.gov/business/guide/index.shtm

www.ready.gov/business