Do you have a disaster plan?

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit the Gulf Coast. Wildfires are burning the West Coast of the United States. And earthquakes are rattling the Midwest. The United States has had one turbulent year of weather causing weather-related disasters.

The disruption of lives and commence has been great. The impact is larger than most people would think. Without including the most recent events since August, there has been about $16 billion in losses due to weather in the United States in 2017 according to NOAA.

Businesses have been wiped out. Physical locations destroyed. Employees scattered to safer places. This level of weather-related disaster is something no business owner wants to think about, but it is there in the back of your mind. That said it must be part of your business plan.

While you can’t 100 percent prepared for every crisis, you can have a plan of action. The Institute for Business and Home Safety says that about 25 percent of organizations do not open again after a major disaster. To protect your small business, you need to identify the risks relevant to your location, which are natural and human-made. Once you have a plan created, then it is important to keep it updated.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has created a clearinghouse for resources such as checklists for various disasters from hurricanes to cyber attacks. It is worth you visiting them or FEMA and spending an hour reviewing the resources and putting an action plan together.

Your disaster plan should include the following:

  • Understand your risks and prepare. Once you identify the types of disasters your company is most at risk for then you can take steps to minimize potential damage and loss to your business and employees. That’s where the SBA checklists come in handy.
  • Protect vital business records. Keep those documents in a safe that is resistant to fire, heat, water, and burglary tools.
  • Create backup copies of critical business records, data, and programs. Keep the back-up copies in a location separate from your primary facility.
  • Keep an updated list of emergency contact numbers. In addition to emergency personnel and disaster relief agencies such as FEMA, include information for employees, customers, suppliers and distributors. Keep an extra copy off-site.
  • Understand your insurance coverage. Review your policy with your insurance agent to make sure you understand your deductibles, the limits of your insurance and the nature of your coverage.
  • Create an emergency kit for business locals. Include essential items such as first aid supplies, flashlights, battery-powered radio, tool kit, extra batteries, nonperishable food and bottled water. Make sure it is readily available during an emergency.

Take advice from a seasoned business owner, Chuck Flagg, owner Cruise Planners, who has kept his business going through a few natural disasters over the years. He suggests you should keep your paper files or battery backups with a way to access any electronic info stored in the cloud. He has paper records, which has allowed him to access his files of clients traveling and for those with payments die. He also suggests a keeping a landline with an analog phone.

As a fortune cookie said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Take this opportunity to prepare your business for a disaster today.


This column was originally published in the Lexington Herald-Leader on September 24, 2017, and nationally distributed to over 300 media outlets through the Tribune Content Agency.