What should I do as a business owner to prepare?

The best time to respond to a disaster is before it happens.  A relatively small investment of time and money now may prevent severe damage or disruption of life and business in the future.  Consider these when preparing your business for a looming hurricane:

Is your business vulnerable to flooding or high wind damage?  Check flood maps for your area.  If you have internet access, you can map the flood risk to your business at www.esri.com/hazards.htm  If your building has large expanse of glass, consider using impact-resistant glass or impact-resistant film to protect your investment. Make upgrades now that would prevent possible future damage.

What precautions can you take? First, secure your building. Cover non-impact-resistant glass windows with shutters or plywood.  Move and cover equipment and furniture to a secure area.  Protect all data by making backup files and store duplicates at an alternate site, preferable away from the area that could be affected by the storm.

Make provisions for alternate communications and power, especially if your business cannot shut down during the course of the emergency.  Be prepared to have limited access to banking services.  Secure adequate cash to operate for several days.  Plan on loosing water, electricity, and phone service. Stockpile emergency supplies.

Prepare a list of vendors and telephone numbers critical to daily operations. Consider adding a backup vendor outside your area. Prepare another list of vendors that can assist in recovery, and consider contracting with them in advance for such services as recovery of water-soaked papers, debris removal, moving, warehousing of equipment and computer services.

Outline a chain of command and what each employee's responsibility will be before and after the storm.  Ensure adequate primary and backup communications are available.  Cell phones, radios, CBs, two-way radios, etc. should be considered.

What about the staff?  Keep them well-informed and safe.  Prepare a list of all employees, including phone numbers, addresses, and locations where they may go if they plan to evacuate.  Most employees must have time to attend to their families.  If your business must operate during the storm, provide good shelter.  If you need to return to work quickly after the storm and need critical employees to do so, plan on helping them meet their personal needs. Help them obtain personal supplies and services.

Establish a rendezvous point and time for employees outside the evacuation area in case of severe damage and communications are disrupted.  Establish a call-down procedure for warning and post-storm communications.

Who do you need to inform?  If you will need to shut down during an emergency, make sure your customers and suppliers know what is happening.  If necessary and possible, arrange for telephone, fax, and other communications to be re-routed if your lines go out.

How do you manage your insurance?  Evaluate all insurance coverage with your insurance agent. Prepare a list of carriers, policy numbers, and a contact person including telephone numbers for your agent and his or her claims office.  Have your business appraised at least every five years.  Inventory, document, and photograph equipment, supplies, and the workplace.  Have copies of policies. Consider purchase of business-interruption insurance.  Flood insurance requires a separate policy.


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