Disaster preparedness: always a good business practice

With predictions of an active hurricane season ahead, small-business owners should be reminded that creating a strong disaster preparedness plan is crucial. Such a plan will help protect both owners and employees while ensuring that a business can bounce back as quickly as possible after a disaster strikes.This is important not just for those in hurricane-prone regions. It’s important for small businesses everywhere.Tony Heath, owner of Quality Cash Market in Concord, is a great example.In the Mother’s Day Floods of 2006, Heath experienced significant flooding, forcing him to close the store for four days while he and his staff dealt with over $40,000 in damage. With the help of an SBA disaster loan, he was able to make contingency plans in the event the business were to face flooding or other hazards.When less severe floods arrived the following year the plans and efforts paid off. Quality Cash Market was able to provide customers with high-quality meats with minimal disruption to their operations and much less damage to the facility.“The whole experience forced us to prepare, think and act differently. For Quality Cash Market, the ounce of prevention was worth much, much more than a pound of cure,” said Heath.There are several simple, low-cost steps that small-business owners should take: • Calculate how much money you might need in reserve if you had to shut down for a day, a week, a month, or longer. • Develop, distribute and maintain an emergency contact list that includes all your employees as well as local emergency responders and utility companies. • Brainstorm a list of tough questions like “What’s the biggest disaster risk in my neighborhood or my region?”For a small business, closing for just one day can often mean huge financial losses.Be proactive, including designating a spokesperson to communicate updates and contact your insurance company to find if you’re covered.Many small businesses choose to buy “business interruption insurance,” which covers operating expenses like payroll and utility bills in the event of an unexpected shutdown.To help small businesses with their preparedness planning, SBA has teamed up with Agility Recovery Solutions to create an online continuity planning workshop called “Prepare My Business” (preparemybusiness.org). There are helpful tools, such as this month’s webinar, “10 Steps to Business Preparedness.” Other helpful sites include sba.gov/disasterassistance or ready.gov.As small businesses are leading America’s economic recovery, many of them are investing time and money into their plans to grow and create jobs. Developing a strong disaster preparedness plan should be a critical and integral piece of those efforts.Witmer H. Jones is the director of the New Hampshire district office of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Categories: Opinion