Disaster Preparedness – Are You Ready?

According to Nationwide Insurance*, an estimated 25 percent of businesses do not reopen following a major disaster. Even more troubling is that 22 percent of small-business owners have already been impacted by a natural disaster, and yet one in five small-business owners without a written disaster plan said they don’t have one because “it’s not a high priority for them.” And almost half (49 percent) said it would take their business at least three months to recover from a natural disaster.

“Small-businesses owners are crucial to our economy,” said Mark Berven, president of Nationwide Property & Casualty, the No. 1 total small-business insurer in the country. “And they are often the ones impacted the most by a disaster. That’s why it’s so important for people to start preparing now — especially as we head into the spring storm season.”

Being able to reopen after a disaster occurs means taking the necessary steps before the event. Business owners devote a tremendous amount of time, money and energy into their organizations, expending huge amounts of resources to make it successful. And yet the vast majority of business owners never get to planning for a disaster or emergency. It’s the “it won’t happen to me” syndrome.

But recent experience with New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 has shown that disasters can happen when least expected. For small to medium business owners, being prepared can mean the difference between staying in business following a disaster or closing your doors forever.

As the business owner, you should ask yourself the following questions: Am I prepared to relocate temporarily? What would happen if my suppliers shut down? Do my employees know what to do in case of an emergency? Do I have policies and procedures if and when a disaster hits?

Some other vital points to consider:

  • Your employees are your most important resource. They should be well-versed in emergency procedures. When was the last time they were trained? Do they know where the emergency exits are located?
  • A safety coordinator should be appointed; this is someone who will take responsibility for training current and new employees, make sure all the fire extinguishers work, plan safety drills, develop evacuation plans and other necessary tasks.
  • Vital business records, which include all information stored on paper and computer, should be duplicated and saved at an offsite location away from the main business site. There are companies that can assist with this important task.

Your business should also have a “recovery communications” plan in place. Key employees can be assigned as spokespersons who will contact suppliers, creditors, other employees, customers and utility companies to get the word out that the business is still viable. Also, that spokesperson can keep the public informed of rebuilding efforts, if necessary.

Secure Strategies can assist you with preparing for a minor or major disaster. Let us work with you to prepare a Business Continuity plan, emergency procedures for your employees and backup steps for your data, documents and equipment.