Preparing for an Unexpected Disaster The recent hurricanes, tsunamis, and terrorist attacks make it clear that even smaller companies are not immune to an unexpected loss. What can you do to prepare and minimize your risk to ensure that such a disaster won’t run you out of business? Unplanned events can have a devastating effect on your business. You need to be protected from any number of natural and unnatural events such as fire, computer failure, and illness of key staff, all of which can make it difficult or even impossible to continue day-to-day operations. Good planning can help you take steps to minimize the impact of a disaster and protect your business. The following recommendations can help your business cope with an unforeseen calamity. Why the Need to Plan? By identifying possible disasters that may affect you and your business, you may be able to minimize the risks and losses that might occur. A well thought-out business continuity plan will identify an action plan, safety concerns, applicable computer back-ups, and alternative operation headquarters. It will also provide a road map back to normal activities by highlighting the points of contact for insurance and emergency relief way ahead of time. Educate Your Staff. How will you escape? Where will you meet up? How will you communicate? Map out and practice escape routes from your building. Familiarize yourself with local authorities and emergency radio signals announced at the time of a disaster. What happens if you survive the disaster but your biggest supplier does not? Develop back-up vendors and relationships ahead of time. Don’t forget that many employees will have families to care for and may have their homes affected by the disaster. Have you stockpiled water, batteries, first aid kits and food in case emergency services are delayed? Back Up Key Business Information. Does your computer system have a nightly back-up to tape or other medium? If the answer is yes, where are the back-ups stored? And more importantly, will the back-ups include all of the software needed for your computers to function at another location? Many businesses now have outside vendors that host and back up their computer systems for them. Inquire if they have redundant back-up systems and request information on their emergency plans. If the disaster is only temporary and shuts down the electrical grid to your business, a generator may be a sound investment. The generator can power your computer system, equipment, refrigerators, and other items that might be crucial. Review Your Insurance Coverage. As many realize after the fact, they are not insured for many natural disasters under their existing business policy. You may need to add or increase coverage if it is available. Check with your carrier for details on your coverage. Recovering and Government Assistance The following government agencies may provide assistance: Small Business Administration (SBA) - Provides low interest loans to businesses, homeowners and renters who are victims of a disaster. They even provide loans for the replacement or repair of damaged or destroyed clothing, appliances, furnishings, and automobiles. For more information, visit their website at: www.sba.gov. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) - Disaster assistance is provided in the form of money or direct assistance to individuals, families and businesses in an area whose property has been damaged or destroyed and whose losses are not covered by insurance. It is meant to help with critical expenses that cannot be covered in other ways. For more information, visit their website at: www.fema.gov. Since a disaster strikes without warning, being prepared can help your business recover more quickly from a catastrophic emergency. Take the necessary steps to ensure that both you and your business investments are well-protected.