While weather experts at NOAA are predicting a “near-normal” 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, last year’s Hurricane Irene is a reminder of the erratic and devastating nature of tropical storms. The six-month season, which began June 1, typically peaks between August and October, notwithstanding the two named storms in the last weeks of May. Now is a good time to put a disaster preparedness plan in place to protect your employees and your business.
SBA and Agility Recovery Solutions recently hosted a free webinar giving tips on how to prepare for Hurricane season. But it doesn’t matter if you’re in the Gulf Coast or the Upper Midwest – all kinds of risks exist, and small businesses are particularly vulnerable. Go to http://agil.me/sbahurricaneprep to download the slides from the recent “Protect Your Business This Hurricane Season” webinar. You can also view the recorded Webinar at https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/456830896 at any time. You will need Windows Media Player 9 or higher.
Meanwhile, there are a few things you can do, at no cost, to jump-start your business continuity plan:
· Determine your greatest risk potential. It might come from wind damage or inland flooding that typically follows a tropical storm’s heavy rains. Your business could suffer financial losses due to road and bridge closings in the aftermath of a hurricane. Power outages are a major threat, especially to businesses in the food and hospitality industries. What would happen if you had to shut down your business for several days? Look at the building where you do business – inside and out – and assess the risks. If you do this early enough, you’ll have time to do structural upgrades – like impact resistant doors and windows – that can prevent possible future storm damage.
· Calculate the cost of business interruptions for one week, one month and six months. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be able investigate insurance options or build a cash reserve that will allow your company to function during the post-disaster recovery phase. It’s also a good idea to develop professional relationships with alternative vendors, in case your primary contractor can’t service your needs. Place occasional orders with them so they regard you as an active customer when you need them.
· Review your insurance coverage. Contact your agent to find out if your policy is adequate for your needs. Consult with a business insurance expert to advise you on the right coverage for your situation. When buying insurance, ask “How much can I afford to lose?” It’s a good idea to know the value of your property. Floods are the leading cause of natural disaster losses in the U.S., according to the U.S. Geological Survey, and many property insurance policies don’t cover flood damage.
· Build a crisis communications plan so you’ll be able to make sure your employees, customers, vendors, and contractors know what’s going on. Establish an e-mail alert system. Make sure you have primary and secondary email addresses for your employees, and everyone you do business with. Create a Facebook page, and use Twitter to keep the public aware you’re still in business and in the process of recovering after the disaster.
· Consider a Telework Policy. Prepare for the possibility that employees won’t be able to get to work by developing an emergency telework policy. Read “How to Make Telework Work for your Small Business” for more information.
Each month SBA and Agility Recovery hosts a free webinar providing business continuity strategies. The June 12 webinar will focus on effective leadership during hurricanes and other disasters, with a discussion led by former FEMA Administrator David R. Paulison. The hour-long webinar begins at 2 p.m. ET. Space is limited, so register now.