As a business owner, I really need to look at it as a wake up call for what Mother Nature can really throw our way. Business owners owe it themselves, their customers and their employees to develop a solid plan to handle natural and man-made disasters. Disaster Planning is not something just for big businesses and the local municipality. Small and mid-size business owners and sole proprietorships need to develop a Disaster Plan as well. There are some excellent websites available to help business owners learn how to develop an Emergency Preparedness Plan, how to implement and test the Plan and how to keep the Plan current as time passes.
For information Business Owners can use in developing an individualized Disaster Preparedness Plan for their own businesses, see http://www.ready.gov/business.
A first step for any business owner is to look at the risk associated with their particular business. What should be considered when trying to identify the greatest risk to your business’ ability to generate revenue? Remember, not all “Disaster” situations are related to hurricanes or fires. Disasters (for your particular business) may also include the shut down of Bus lines and other Public Transportation or Air Travel shut downs due to weather or strikes or National Emergency; road closures due to smoke, flooding and fires; loss of electricity or phone lines for extended periods; loss of paper records (both customer records and your businesses own financial and billing records) due to fire or water damage; and loss of gas lines and water lines.
If electricity is out for extended periods, ATM machines will not work and limited Bank access may limit the business’ available cash for inventory, supplies and payroll. If the phone service is down, how will you communicate with your workers and your customers. As past storms in Northeast Florida taught local residents, when the main telephone lines (the “land lines”) stop functioning, the cell towers quickly become overloaded with calls – and nothing gets through. Another side effect of electricity outages will be that gas station pumps may cease to function as well – limiting business’ ability to get their service and delivery vehicles back on the road and back in business.
Industries Relying Heavily On Staff Support
Consider how you will contact your workers to assign them to their work location – or to let them know where the business will be operating from in the event that your primary facility is not functional. If your workers rely on Public Transportation, consider how to handle transportation required to keep your business running. Do you have contact information for all of your employees somewhere away from the office – somewhere on paper?
Industries Relying Heavily on Technology
Now is the time to check your back-up sites for key data. If your computers, servers and physical back-up records are are in the same building or in the same region of the country, your business’ financial lifeline may be at risk. You may be able to plan ahead in the event a hurricane is bearing down on your office building in three days – but you have no warning in the event of an electrical fire or lightning strike destroying the structure. See what options are available and plan ahead.
Every business is unique, but the need to PLAN is universal. Mid-size business owners, small business owners and sole proprietorships have fewer people to develop and implement the planning for disaster – and yet they are also more likely to be a regional or single site business – therefore more prone to the potential for loss in the event of a disaster.
Some losses cannot be prevented and business owners may want to talk to their Insurance Professional about the opportunity to insure against the loss of inventory, the loss of access to the business structure, or the loss of customer or service industry revenue (called Business Interruption Insurance).
If you need assistance analyzing the risks faced by your business in the event of an emergency or you need assistance in developing or reviewing a business Disaster Preparedness Plan, contact a business Attorney at Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A., serving businesses and individuals in Northeast Florida for over 50 years.