8 Storm Preparedness Tips for Your Small Business
When you’re running a bakery, an interior design practice or a dry cleaning business, a natural disaster or an emergency may seem like the last of your worries.
But all the hard work that you put into growing your business might be in jeopardy without proper storm preparedness. Consider these eight tips to help get ready:
1. Identify Potential Problems
Do tornadoes or hurricanes sometimes strike in your area? Are wildfires a threat you have to deal with? Identify which natural disasters are most common in your area and determine your business’s risk factor. Start by preparing for the most imminent weather threat first and work your way down from there.
2. Consult Expert Resources
Business owners can get free storm preparedness information from Ready.gov and the American Red Cross. For example, the Red Cross’ Ready Rating program offers free online disaster preparedness planning. Some chapters also provide free CPR and first-aid training for small businesses.
3. Do a Business Impact Analysis
A business impact analysis (BIA) helps you predict the potential effect a disaster could have on your business, including lost or delayed sales and income, increased expenses due to repair work and delayed implementation of business plans, says Ready.gov. Completing a BIA helps identify potential gaps in your existing disaster preparedness plan, such as customer communication, inventory management or record-keeping safeguards. Completing a BIA may help you create and refine your emergency response, crisis communications and business continuity plans.
4. Develop and Practice an Emergency Response Plan
An emergency response plan is what your business will implement in the event of a natural disaster, says Ready.gov. The plan should include how you will protect employees and customers, manage business operations and communicate during and after the disaster. Practice this plan. How easy is it to exit your office building on foot? How long does it take to reach the designated meeting place? Who will help customers or employees who need mobility assistance?
5. Make a Crisis Communications Plan
The crisis communications plan is how you will keep in contact with employees and customers, adds Ready.gov. Your plan helps your business respond promptly and accurately during and after the disaster. Determine in advance who will be the spokesperson for a particular audience. For example, you might have one spokesperson for employees and another for customers.
6. Protect Financial Data
If your office or store is destroyed, what would happen to your business’s financial data? What about customer records or other sensitive company information? An internal and external data backup site may help protect your company records. Remind employees that any data stored on a computer hard drive, rather than a company server, can be lost. You also may want to look into adding data compromise coverage to your business insurance policy. This can help you with the financial or legal burden if information is lost, stolen or accidentally released.
7. Create a Business Continuity Plan
How will your business continue to operate in the event of a natural disaster? For example, if your business sells goods or services online, orders may continue to come in — even if your actual storefront is closed. A continuity plan includes how to manage communication with customers and suppliers, how to fulfill order or service contracts and how to recover lost company data, says Ready.gov.
8. Talk to Your Insurance Agent
Business insurance may help protect your company from substantial losses in the event of a covered claim. Beyond property coverage, you might also consider business interruption coverage, which may help reimburse you if you’re temporarily unable to do business after a covered loss. Of course, your business insurance needs will vary, depending on whether you run a retail shop, office or florist. Talk to your agent to be sure that your business is protected with the coverages that fit your needs.
Originally published on December 27, 2012.