Getting back to business after a disaster depends on preparedness
planning done today. For small business owners, being prepared can mean staying in business following a disaster. Planning ahead can help small businesses recover from financial losses and business interruption and protect their employees, the community and the environment.
Plan Ahead for Potential Disasters
It’s critical for you to protect your business by identifying potential risks from natural and man-made disasters. Be pessimistic – this is definitely a case of planning for the worst and hoping for the best. Here are some suggestions, if you are at risk for wildfires
, or flooding
- 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.
- Assign one person to be responsible for monitoring weather alerts.
- Establish interior, preferably basement, locations for employees to gather. Bathrooms, corners, and short hallways are safest.
- Remember, a “watch” means a tornado could happen and a “warning” means you should take immediate cover.
- 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.
- 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.
Determine What is Vital for Your Business
Some things are vital to running your business and, you need to protect them. Create an all-inclusive disaster plan
, update it regularly, and keep a copy at an off-site location.
- Identify an internal shelter in the event that authorities tell you to “shelter in place.”
- Establish a single spokesperson to speak to the media and the public.
- Document each employee’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.
- 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.
- Maintain a contact list of all your suppliers and alternate suppliers.
- Find out how they plan to supply you, if the supplier experiences a disaster.
- Maintain an inventory of all equipment used by your business.
- Keep a maintenance schedule for all equipment, as well as manufacturer and service contact information for each.
- Make sure your facility meets all local building and fire codes.
- Know where utility shut-offs are located and how to operate them.
- Document all processes that make your business run from answering the phones, to tracking finances, to distributing your product or service.
- Develop a schedule for backing up all computer records.
- Keep current copies of all paper and computer files off -site and accessible.
- Insurance coverage can mean the difference between reopening after a disaster strikes and having to close your doors. Meet regularly with your insurance 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.
Preparedness Planning Resources
These resources could save you time and money … and even save lives. The more you learn about disaster preparation, the sooner you will be able to get back to business should a disaster occur.
United States Small Business Administration
American Red Cross
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Department of Homeland Security
Institute for Business and Home Safety
The National Federation of lndependent Business
Alabama Emergency Management Agency
The Institute for Business and Home Safety (www.ibhs.org) offers a variety of tools designed for small business owners to both reduce their potential for loss should disaster strike and to reopen quickly should they be forced to close.
SBA Disaster Assistance Program – Disaster Loans
The United States Small Business Administration is the federal disaster bank in the wake of hurricanes, floods, wildfires, tornadoes, and other physical disasters. After the President or the SBA Administrator declares a disaster, homeowners, renters, and businesses of all size may apply for low-interest SBA disaster loans.
Physical Disaster Loans
Economic Injury Disaster Loans
Available for non-farm businesses of any size and non-profit organizations. SBA makes loans of up to $1.5 million to repair or replace damaged property, inventory, and equipment.
Real Property Loans
Small businesses or agricultural cooperatives may be eligible for SBA assistance of up to $1.5 million if they have suffered substantial economic injury in a declared disaster area.
Personal Property Loans
Loans up to $200,000 for homeowners to repair or restore a primary residence to its previous condition.
Institute for Business and Home Safety
Up to $40,000 for homeowners and renters to repair or replace personal property such as clothing, furniture, or automobiles lost in the disaster.