When Disaster Strikes
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The August earthquake that rattled buildings up and down the East Coast, the widespread flooding and power outages caused by Hurricane Irene, and a number of tornadoes are recent reminders of the significant risk that natural disasters pose to small businesses.
According to the Association of Small Business Development Centers, more than one in four businesses will experience a significant crisis in any given year, and too many of them will never recover. Of those businesses that experience a disaster and have no emergency plan, 43% never reopen.
All small businesses, no matter where they are located, should have a disaster plan in place. Your plan should be designed to help your business maintain or restart operations after a disruption. The Chamber’s Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC) and the Office Depot Foundation offer a number of easy to implement and inexpensive tips to prevent or mitigate disruption following a disaster.
Build a team to create a plan. No one person knows everything about your business, so include people who will ensure that your disaster plan is complete.
Keep your plan simple and inexpensive. It should be easy for employees to follow and not costly to maintain or update.
Update your emergency employee, vendors/suppliers, and key contacts lists for communication during and after an emergency. If one of your vendors is impacted by a disaster, have an alternate vendor lined up.
Identify hazards and critical operations. Determine the risks to your most essential business operations and take steps to protect against them. Prioritize which pieces of your business must be brought back after an interruption.
Protect your data. Back up data regularly and store it off-site. A simple CD/DVD could be key to your business’ successful recovery.
Stock up on essential emergency supplies. You should have an adequate supply of batteries, office supplies, etc.
Collect critical information to store with your plan. Be able to quickly access legal papers, insurance, agreements, leases, floor plans, and other documents.
Exercise your plan at least annually and make adjustments as needed. After a disaster, document the damage with photos and/or videos; contact your insurance company; communicate with your employees, customers, vendors, suppliers, key contacts, and possibly the media; apply for assistance if needed; and update your disaster plan based on lessons learned.
For more help in creating a disaster plan or preparing for unplanned interruptions, visit Office Depot’s Disaster Preparedness Strategy website. In addition, take advantage of Disaster Resistant Business Toolkit software to build a simple, customized disaster plan. Use the special coupon code USCHAMBER at checkout and receive a 35% discount.
If your business is impacted by a major disaster and requires relief and recovery assistance, contact the National Disaster Help Desk for Business at 1-888-MY BIZ HELP (888-692-4943).