The Atlantic hurricane season finally ends on Wednesday, Nov. 30. Of the season’s 14 named storms, eight grew to hurricane status while two – Fiona and Ian – strengthened into Category 4 storms that caused billions of dollars in damages.
But while hurricane season may be over, small business owners can’t afford to relax. They still need to update – or create – a disaster plan in case their business is disrupted by a fire or some other calamity.
If there were a fire, flood, or some other disaster, how would you contact your employees, customers, and vendors? How would your employees reach you? What would happen to your business records? Would your insurance cover any damages? How long would it take to reopen, assuming you could reopen?
Ask yourself these questions and consider these tips when putting together a disaster plan for your small business:
- Understand the risks. Your small business may be vulnerable to many types of disasters, such as flooding and wildfires. Make sure you are aware and protected as much as possible against the possible risks.
- Be sure you have adequate insurance. You need at least enough to rebuild your home and business. Review your policies to see what is—and isn’t—covered. Consider business interruption insurance, which helps cover operating costs during the post-disaster shutdown period. Get flood insurance.
- Take photographs and videos of your assets. Store them online if possible or in waterproof and fireproof containers kept in a safe place, such as a relative’s or friend’s home or business in another state.
- Have an emergency response plan. Determine your evacuation routes. Establish meeting places. Keep emergency phone numbers handy.
- Develop a communications plan. Designate someone to serve as a contact person for your employees, customers, and vendors. Phone and email in your area may be down following a natural disaster, so ask an out-of-state friend, colleague, or relative to serve as a post-disaster point of contact.
- Back up your business records. Make copies of any vital records and store them someplace safe. Use online backups for electronic data, and keep paper documents in a fireproof safe-deposit box.
- Create a disaster kit. Put a flashlight, a portable radio, extra batteries, a phone charger, first-aid supplies, non-perishable food, bottled water, a basic tool kit, plastic sheeting, and garbage bags in a bag or box someplace handy, in case of emergency. Encourage your employees to prepare disaster kits for themselves and their families.