Preparing your Business for a Disaster

Published Wednesday, September 28, 2011 1:45 PM

The costs of Hurricane Irene are staggering: the White House estimates the cost to taxpayers at a whopping $1.5 billion dollars. But a giant price tag is only one indicator of devastation. For many businesses, shuttering for even a few days can destabilize cash flows and upend sales and distribution chains resulting in cataclysmic losses.

While Mother Nature is beyond our control, preparing a business for a disaster before it strikes is firmly within our grasp. As the old saying goes, "The time to fix your roof is when the sun is shining." The time to prepare for a disaster is before it strikes.

Smart business owners should take the following precautions:

Get Checklist Smart: Create checklists that address plans for data back-up, crisis communications and any necessary office relocations. Prepare a list of any documents and equipment necessary to ensure business continuity and research relocation options ahead of time.

Double Your Docs: Store copies of your insurance policy and financial records in a safe, fire-proof place away from your business. All digital files should be backed up daily and stored off-site.

Operating Instructions: Take the guesswork out of emergencies by providing employees with instructions on what they should do when a crisis develops. Institute a chain of command system that allows all employees to be quickly briefed on business resumption and recovery plans. Fine-tune the plan bi-annually to keep up with personnel changes and new logistics.

Keep in Touch: Regularly update all contact information for employees, customers and vendors and store in a remote location.

Know Your Insurance: Review the fine print on your insurance policy. For example, hazard insurance doesn't necessarily cover floods so be sure to know exactly what is and isn't covered. Identify what documents are required by your insurer in the event of a disaster. Have those records on hand and store duplicates off-site.

Get Shipshape: Make sure your physical workplace is sound. Regularly check that all possible hazards, such as gas lines, water heaters, etc., are secure. Likewise, make sure that bookshelves and other fixtures are securely braced. Check that the roof is sound and able to withstand wind and water damage.

For more resources, check out the sound advice in 4 Steps to Prepare Your Business for Disaster and Prepare Your Workplace and Employees. 


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