8 Nov 2012
By Tannette Johnson-Elie
Many small businesses on the East Coast were slam-dunked by Sandy and now face a snowstorm. The devastating hurricane last week left millions without power, causing billions of dollars in damage and a number of lost lives.
As witnessed by Hurricane Sandy, no one can ever really be fully ready for a calamity of this magnitude. Nevertheless, there are steps small businesses and entrepreneurs can take to minimize risk and protect their companies in the event something bad happens.
No entrepreneur or small business owner likes to think that the enterprise he or she built from scratch could be decimated by a storm, blizzard, tornado or an once-in-a-lifetime event like a hurricane or earthquake. But natural disasters do happen and let’s not forget we’re living in a post- 9/11 world where the threat of terrorism is very real.
For insight and advice on how small business CEOS and entrepreneurs can better prepare themselves and their management teams for survival in the event of a natural disaster, I turned to business expert and strategist, Howard Lewinter.
“As the CEO, president or business owner, ask yourself: What is the company’s business plan for natural disasters and other emergencies?” said Lewinter. “The last thing you need, whether in good business times or challenging business times, is to have something totally unexpected happen such as an emergency or natural disaster and have no business plan in place.”
The key to surviving a natural disaster is to anticipate it and have a plan in place. Nevertheless, many business owners and CEOS tend to be reactive to disasters rather than proactive and plan in advance for the worst-case scenario, says Lewinter.
“Such a reactive approach can be costly to your business which is why you want to have a well thought out and coordinated proactive plan in place now while time is on your side, said Lewinter, who has survived a hurricane.
So how should small business owners proceed in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency? Here are strategies that Lewinter suggests entrepreneurs consider as part of their business plans for natural disaster emergencies:
Take inventory of what you have
Make a list of what it takes to run your business from office supplies to furniture to computers and other resources. Take photos for insurance purposes. Have a phone number or email list of utilities, vendors, outsourced services and any emergency numbers you may need. Maintain a current project list with deadlines.
Save your data
Back up your data. Even if your business has just one computer or a network of computers, it’s critical that you back up your important data, both on-site and off-site to a secure location away from your company.
“The key is not just to back up to a device in your office or your briefcase, but also to a resource outside of your office,” Lewinter said.
Develop a detailed human resource plan
Have a detailed, up-to-date list of employees with home addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and alternative contact information.
Have a back-up plan
Consider your options if damage to your office, building or warehouse is extensive and the facility is deemed inoperable. Determine what the costs would be to relocate or to even temporarily suspend your business.
Communicate with key company personnel
Discuss with your team leaders what plans and policies should be in place and identify potential risks. Is your business located in areas where you have to worry about hurricanes or floods? Determine appropriate responses to each potential emergency.
“Think the unthinkable. Be prepared,” Lewinter said. “Once you put your plans in place review them on a once or even twice yearly basis just so you are always ready for if and when a true emergency strikes your business.”
Bottom line is: Avoiding the potential for extensive damage to your data and your business, requires that you stay vigilant. Are you prepared in the event of a natural disaster or other unthinkable emergency?