A smart business owner can prepare for a lot of eventualities, but Mother Nature is unpredictable. Depending on where you are, your business could be subject to a hurricane, tornado, flood, drought, wildfire, blizzard, earthquake or a combination of disasters in any given year.
With Hurricane Sandy battering the East Coast, many businesses will be affected in the coming days and weeks. Here's what you can do to protect yourself and your business.
Steven Silberberg owns and operates Fitpacking, a weight loss and fitness backpacking excursion company. He says the worst part about the fires is the unknown. Silberberg is already seeing cancellations for his July expedition and expects more from customers who’ve already spent considerable money and time in planning for the trip.
Even if the trip is not cancelled, the uncertainty of the trail conditions still worries him. “We may be faced with other issues such as burned trees and brush blocking the trails, mud erosion into water sources and other things like that,” he says. All he can do is take a wait-and-see approach and begin preparing for the next adventure if the upcoming one is cancelled.
Have a Plan
As a small business owner, you have to not only worry about your personal safety when disaster strikes, but that of your business, its employees, its inventory and its customers.
FEMA recommends developing a plan for worst-case scenarios. Each type of the natural disaster brings with it its own set of problems, so be prepared for the situations that may directly affect your business. In your plan, be sure to address your company’s hazards, identify vulnerabilities and analyze potential impacts any disaster could have on your business, both physically and virtually.
Tracey Forbes, business continuity expert at SunGard Availability, says the plan should include steps a business should take to move personnel out of harm’s way, what people should do and where they should go if business is disrupted and what situations would demand a shut-down. “The physical safety and psychological well-being of employees should always be the top priority in a company's business continuity plan,” she says.
Build an emergency kit customized for your business, but every kit should include staples such as:
Water: one gallon per person per day, for drinking and sanitation
Food: at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
Flashlights and batteries
Whistle to signal for help
Dust mask or cotton t-shirt to help filter the air
Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
Can opener for food
Forbes suggests inquiring about your vendors’ continuity plans. If their business is disrupted due to a natural disaster it may impact your business as well, and you should be prepared in case of an emergency.