Different geographic regions are more prone to certain types of natural disasters. For example, earthquakes are a continual threat for West Coasters, while hurricanes are a staple for East Coasters. In the Midwest and South regions, tornadoes and hurricanes are all too frequent. Drought, flooding and forest fires also wreak havoc across the country from time to time.
As a small business owner, it is your responsibility to prepare your business, your staff and yourself for the possibility that a natural disaster could impact your company. This post identifies the key things to take care of now – before disaster strikes – and how to respond once the disaster has passed.
Maintain Appropriate and Adequate Insurance
First things first – it is critical to maintain the right type and adequate amounts of insurance. You will need insurance to protect your property and inventory. If your area is prone to specific types of natural disaster – for example, flooding, you will want to carry insurance for this as well.
And if your business is interrupted by the disaster, business interruption insurance will help your company stay afloat while it cannot operate.
Ensure Sufficient Emergency Supplies and Rations on the Premises
Sometimes natural disaster strikes so suddenly there is no time to evacuate. If this is the case, you will need to develop an emergency response plan that includes the possibility of remaining with your staff on the property until it is safe to leave.
So here you will want to stock up on emergency food and water, extra paper goods, first aid supplies, batteries and flashlights, blankets and other supplies to tide you over until the danger passes.
If there is time to evacuate, then you will need to have a plan in place for how to alert employees and direct them to exit the premises safely. This should include a facility map so it is clear where exits are located and the fastest route to reach them. If you have staff at multiple sites, you will need to develop and routinely practice your emergency notification system to be sure it works properly at all locations, and ensure they have accurate posted facility maps with exit directions as well.
Have a Post-Disaster Cleanup and Recovery Plan in Place
Even if you have comprehensive insurance coverage in place, it can still take some time after a natural disaster to have the insurer complete their assessment and issue your claims funds. In the interim, you will want to have your own plan to initiate post-disaster cleanup and recovery so you can get your business up and running once again.
Your first step will be to ensure the property is safe and habitable for staff and customers to return to. For example, you will need carpet cleaners to clean and disinfect water-impacted carpeting, fans and air spray to air out and freshen a damp interior, brooms and mops to clean floors, new filters to replace waterlogged ones, paper goods and cleaner sprays to disinfect surfaces and a list of local repair facilities where you can find materials to replace damaged or broken glass, wood and bricking.
You will also want to keep a file folder with warranty and insurance information for both your property itself and individual components that may need to be repaired or replaced. By knowing in advance what you will have to pay for out of pocket and what may be covered by a warranty or insurance claim, you can put aside some funds each month towards a “natural disaster emergency fund” you can use if the need ever arises.
Planning for the possibility of a natural disaster may take a bit of time away from your day-to-day business operations now, but you and your staff will appreciate your advance preparations in the event your company is affected by a natural disaster in the future.
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