Archived Story

Be proactive with disaster planning

Published 5:36pm Monday, June 30, 2014

What would you do if disaster hits? You could wake up tomorrow and your business is a total loss. Unless you are prepared, you might sink into utter despair.

Potential disasters are largely unpredictable, but a proactive disaster management plan can mitigate their effects on your business and help speed your return to operations. It is true that disaster planning may not be pleasant to think about, but the consequences of not doing it are far worse. Here are some tips for developing a disaster management strategy for your small business:

Identify potential hazards. Consider both natural events (hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, ice storms) as well as man-made events (theft, fires, toxic material spills, civil unrest, terrorism). While your business may not be directly affected, such events could disrupt your utilities, logistics and supply chains.

Develop operational contingency plans. Assess the feasibility of operating out of rented office space, a nearby storefront, or even your home, and what equipment/resources will be needed (e.g., computers, data files, inventory). Important documents, back-up copies of computer records and software and other vital information should be stored in a fireproof container, or at a secure off-site location.

Ensure the safety of employees and customers. Develop an evacuation plan that includes access to shelters, hospitals and other emergency services. Keep emergency telephone numbers clearly posted, and maintain up-to-date emergency contact and essential medical information for all employees.

Perform a safety inventory. Regularly clean and test smoke detectors, and change the batteries at least once a year. Make sure you have well-stocked first-aid kits, fully charged fire extinguishers and a fresh supply of all types of batteries used in your business. If you have portable generators for emergency power, make sure that the fuel is fresh and safely stored.

Consider a remote monitoring system. There are companies that provide remote monitoring for a monthly fee using door/window, glass breakage, flood and smoke sensors. They will notify you and emergency services.

Review your business insurance coverage. At a minimum, your coverage should be enough to get your business back in operation and cover the replacement cost of essential facilities. Note that most general casualty policies do not cover flood damage, nor may they apply to special tools or equipment. Also consider purchasing business interruption insurance, which can assist with ongoing expenses during a forced shutdown.

Remember, better safe than sorry.

Manuel Nunez is a local SCORE counselor. SCORE is a national, nonprofit organization that offers confidential and free counseling to small businesses. In the greater Washington area, contact SCORE by leaving a phone message at 252-974-1848, by visiting the website at or visiting the office on Tuesday and Thursday mornings in the JobLink building, 1385 John Small Ave., Washington.

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