By Ann Marie van den Hurk Lexington Herald-Leader
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) No business owner wants to think about what to do if a natural disaster hits, but as business expert Ann Marie Van Den Hurk points out, it has to be included in any solid business plan.
Hurricanes hit the Gulf Coast and Puerto Rico. Wildfires have been burning along the West Coast. The country has had one turbulent year of weather-related disasters.
The upending of lives and commerce has been great, and, with physical stores destroyed and employees scattered, the financial impact has amounted to billions upon billions of dollars.
This level of weather-related disruption is something no business owner wants to think about, but it has to be included in any solid business plan.
About 25 percent of organizations do not reopen after a major disaster, according to the Institute for Business and Home Safety. In order to protect your small business, identify the risks relevant to your location, both natural and human-made, and once you have a plan created, keep it updated.
For guidance on handling everything from hurricanes to cyberattacks, check out the resources available through the Small Business Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.
Your disaster plan should include the following:
-Getting an understanding of the types of disasters your business is most likely to be impacted by and taking steps to minimize potential losses.
-Protecting vital business records. Keep those documents in a safe that is resistant to fire, water and burglary tools.
-Creating backup copies of critical business records, data and programs _ in a location separate from your primary facility.
-Updating your list of emergency contact numbers. In addition to emergency personnel and disaster relief agencies such as FEMA, include information for employees, customers, suppliers and distributors. Again, keep an extra copy off-site.
-Better understanding your insurance coverage. Review your policy with your insurance agent to make sure you understand your deductibles, the limits of your insurance and the nature of your coverage.
-Creating emergency kits for all your locations. Include essentials such as first aid supplies, flashlights, a battery-powered radio, a tool kit, extra batteries, nonperishable food and bottled water. Store them in easy-to-access areas.
Once you've done all that, consider the advice of seasoned business owner Chuck Flagg, whose Cruise Planners business has weathered several natural disasters over the years. He suggests backing up all records in a cloud computing system and keeping a landline telephone.
As the saying goes, "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." Take this opportunity to prepare your business for tomorrow's disaster today. ___ ABOUT THE WRITER Ann Marie van den Hurk, an accredited public relations professional, is principal of Mind the Gap Public Relations and author of "Social Media Crisis Communications."