Prepare Your Small Business for Disasters
The devastation from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma struck far and wide, from small towns to large, islands to mainland, and homes or businesses alike. While we keep these areas in our thoughts or contribute to the recovery efforts, we can also look at lessons that might be learned from such a tragedy. For small businesses, the one caution that definitely stands out is to be prepared.
Disaster, of course, can strike at any time, with or without a weather-related event. Nature can throw all manner of tornados, blizzards, and mudslides at communities. Terrorist acts, fires, floods, and building damage can occur without warning, and all the business owner can do is try to react. The primary imperative, of course, is to protect and preserve human lives before concentrating on the business. You might be ordered to evacuate, and will need to gather life-sustaining supplies.
Once everyone is safe, you can turn your attention to your business. Although it may be different for an entrepreneur running a home-based business using only a computer or a small company with an actual retail or commercial location, there are some techniques that everyone can use to keep their small business running in the aftermath of a disaster:
• Important papers: You should always have two copies of any important papers relating to your business – insurance, mortgage, business licenses, etc. Keep one copy in a waterproof container or fireproof safe at your business and the other at an off-site location, such as a safe deposit box. You’ll need to have ready access to this information once the immediate danger has passed.
• Back up: Most businesses utilize online resources every day to conduct their routine conversations, run their website, maintain their social media, operate software, and engage with their customers. You know what is crucial, so make sure there is a way to replicate that if you don’t have access to your original office environment. Back up all crucial documents to the cloud or a thumb drive, have a separate list of your passwords, and jot down any licenses or websites you might need to access from a distance.
• Contact Information: Know your customer and supplier contact information, so you can contact them after the emergency event. Have a list of names and addresses if appropriate, or make sure you at least have all your email addresses on file so you can get in touch as soon as you are ready to go again, and update them on any transactions that might be hanging in the balance.
The Small Business Administration and SCORE have a tremendous number of useful resources on disaster preparedness and disaster recovery for small businesses. If you have not already done so, take some time to review this information and develop an emergency plan of your own. With some advance preparation, you will hopefully have taken the steps necessary to protect your information and persevere after the emergency event.