This year, hurricane season is in full effect. Businesses in the paths of Harvey and Irma dealt with significant impacts. Most small business owners are occupied running their business. Plan for natural disasters is a distant thought. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 40% of local entrepreneurs close following a disaster. The lessons learned from this year’s hurricane season distill to one: a disaster plan is essential for commercial survival.
Recent findings from CNBC demonstrate owners are thinking about other things when it comes to disasters. A paltry 8% of respondents said the environment is a top concern when planning business matters. That number drops to 6% in the Southwest, and 5% in the hurricane-plagued south. Job creation, healthcare, immigration, and the “other” category all ranked higher for attention.
Plans can help businesses survive and recover faster. Here are 5 ways entrepreneurs can prepare for natural disasters:
1. Use Online Backup
There may be little notice before disaster strikes. thumb drives, Cloud services, and external hard drives can all store important records. Things such as:
- Invoices and contracts
- Employee documents
- Accounting and tax papers
- Insurance paperwork
Rebuilding will be easier if these are protected and safe.
2. Create Plans for Employees, Vendors, and Customers
A business can prepare for a disaster, but customers, employees, and vendors are essential for survival. Insurance policies may cover business losses, but planning for customers and staff can help prepare. Businesses should share information with customers and staff early about possible supply or sales delays.
- Customers: Helping customers by sharing information can aid preparations. Staying in touch with regular and important customers helps strengthen relationships. Open lines of communication with customers will let them know when the business is back open.
- Employees: Help employees prepare by outlining clear instructions for pay and leave during a disaster. Keep and update employee contact information for updates during and after a storm or event.
- Vendors: Vendors and distributors are a vital part of the commerce. Disaster-related delays may force them to shop elsewhere unless they’ve been informed.
Promptly address customers, employees, and vendors when disaster strikes. It may be a regional event or one specific to a single business. Sharing information with others can help a business survive a disaster.
3. Create a Continuity Plan
A continuity plan enables businesses to keep doing business following a disaster. Label key operations and assign employees to specific roles. Some staff may require cross-training for disaster relief purposes.
The government recommends the following components exist in a disaster plan:
- Find the most-important company operations.
- Develop techniques for filling emergency supply and staffing gaps
- Test the plan for areas to improve on
- Educate staff members
Continuing operations can generate much-needed revenue following a disaster. Businesses able to operate quickly following a disaster are more likely to survive.
4. Evaluate Risks
There are many risks to consider when crafting an emergency plan for a business. There are events common to all businesses, and some which may be specific to an industry or area. An insurance agent can help determine areas of risk specific for an individual business preparedness plan. An agent will ask questions to help determine possible areas to prepare for, such as:
- Is the business in an area prone to extreme weather?
- Is there a history of flooding in the area?
- Is the company in a city at risk of terrorism?
- Does the business produce volatile products?
Risks common to an industry or location can help determine adequate insurance coverage for protection.
Drills help staff learn disaster plans for better implementation if needed. Businesses that drill for disaster plans are more likely to have those drills work during a crisis.
Insurance agents are knowledgeable resources for information about potential disasters and preparing for them. The world can be dynamic but with the right insurance coverage a business can survive a disaster and come out successful. A disaster plan may never be necessary but if so, it can mean closing for a storm and closing forever.
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