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Is Your Small Business Prepared for a Natural Disaster?

Is Your Small Business Prepared for a Natural Disaster?

You can’t turn on the news or check your favorite media app nowadays without hearing news of some natural disaster that has devastated an area and all of its residents. There’s raging wildfires, flash floods, tornadoes, mudslides, and more all threatening to take people’s homes and livelihoods in various parts of the world.

The question is: Have you done what you can to properly protect your business from the mayhem that Mother Nature can sometimes cause? If not, here are five steps you can take starting right now to get your business ready in case disaster strikes:

Step 1: Find Out Your Level of Risk

Of course, not all areas are prone to the same types of natural disasters. Therefore, you need to first discover which ones carry the largest risk for you. To help you find this information, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends that you “check with your local building official, city engineer, or planning zone administrator.” The individuals in these particular positions should be able to shed some light on which natural disasters you need to worry most about, as well as how high your level or risk.

Step 2: Acquire Necessary Insurance

Depending upon what natural disasters you are at a higher risk of facing, you might be able to purchase insurance to help cover the damages should it occur. While the process of filing a claim and recouping your loss after this type of event can be a lengthy one, having some financial protection may be the difference between being able to rebuild and losing your dream forever because you can’t afford to reopen your doors.

Step 3: Create a Natural Disaster Response Policy and Procedure Manual

While some natural disasters strike in the middle of the night, when your business is closed, others occur during regular business hours. So, if something happens during the day (or whenever it is there are people working), do your employees know what to do to best protect themselves and your business?

To ensure that they do, create a natural disaster response policy and procedure manual for your small business and make sure every employee either has it or has access to it. Also, go over it annually to refresh your staff’s mind so they know exactly what to do should a disaster occur when you’re all still at work.

Some things to consider addressing in your policies and procedures, according to Ready.gov, are:

  • Where to go for the safest shelter location, both on-site and off-site
  • How to communicate with each other and family members during a disaster
  • Who will be in charge of making sure everyone is accounted for
  • What types of resources will be available to them during and after the event
  • What plans will be followed to restore business operations as soon as possible

Step 4: Install a Generator

When a snow and ice storm struck mid-Michigan in December 2013, some businesses were without power for two weeks or more. But the reality is that no matter what type of disaster may strike your geographical region, if it is major, there is a high possibility that it will take out the power when it does.

Therefore, having a generator installed can help you continue to operate your business, even if just in part, until help arrives and power is fully restored. Even if you can’t operate fully, a little bit of power can at least potentially help keep your furnace and other things important things going (like an alarm system) to protect your equipment from any further damage or loss.

Step 5: Develop a System to Protect Your Records and Assets

When some business files and assets are lost, they can be extremely difficult if not impossible to replace. Therefore, you want to create a system that offers them the most protection possible should some unforeseen disaster occur.

For instance, if your business is in an earthquake prone area, FEMA recommends that your shelving and equipment be anchored securely, contain lips to prevent items from falling off the front or sides, and also that you place heavier boxes on the bottom shelves and lighter goods on the top.

On the other hand, if your small business is at risk of floods, make sure you store important records and assets like computers or other high-priced equipment above flood level. Also, keep them away from large windows so they aren’t damaged if the window is broken or somehow damaged. FEMA also has various recommendations for businesses built in high wind or excessive fire risk areas too.

Certainly, following these five steps won’t protect you from a disaster occurring, but they can help minimize the damage that can sometimes be caused when Mother Nature unleashes her wrath.

To learn more about how to protect your business should you operate in an area prone to specific disasters, check out the FEMA website as well as the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Emergency Preparedness resources. What you learn may save your business…and possibly even your life.

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by Christina DeBusk //

Freelance writer, author, and small business consultant committed to helping entrepreneurs achieve higher levels of success.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.