The weather: It’s a big concern nowadays and a potentially extreme factor that’s been disrupting the lives and livelihoods of many people in major ways. With hurricane season upon us and winter weather right on its heels, this is the time for small business owners to prepare – before Mother Nature comes pounding at the door.
- Know the weather risks for your area and take measures to reduce your exposure before an event occurs. A structural engineer or your community building or zoning offices can identify ways to shore up your facility against the effects of earthquakes, high winds, flood and fire.
- Make sure you have protective systems in place. For example, an emergency generator can provide power during outages, surge protectors can prevent damage to electronic equipment, and storm shutters can protect glass from flying debris under windy conditions.
- Create a business continuity plan, or take the time to review and update your plan if you already have one. This critical document spells out the specific steps your business will take to return to operation after a disaster. As part of your planning, be sure to arrange alternative locations where your business can operate temporarily, backup suppliers and vendors who can fill in if your usual ones are unavailable, and work-at-home arrangements for employees.
- Anticipate business downtime. Put aside emergency funds to cover income lost should you need to close your doors temporarily and talk with your agent about business income insurance. This coverage may reimburse you for revenue lost if your business is interrupted due to a covered cause such as a power outage.
- Back up your business data on a daily basis and store copies of your files at a secure, offsite location at least 100 miles away. Keep your most important documents in a safe that has been tested and listed by UL (Underwriters Laboratories) as being resistant to fire, heat, burglary tools and torches.
- Keep handy the phone numbers for key emergency contacts such as the police, hospital, bank and your insurance agent (and jot down your policy numbers).
- Create an emergency kit. Include such essential items as first aid supplies, flashlights, battery powered radio, tool kit, extra batteries, nonperishable food and bottled water.
- Review your plans with your employees and their part in executing them. Also apprise them of alternate locations, procedures for accessing data, and how you’ll communicate with them in the event of an extreme weather event. Social media is good way to stay connected.
- Meet with your agent to review your insurance coverage. Go over the fine print to make sure there are no gaps. Depending on where you live, commercial flood insurance may be an essential coverage for your business. It is not included in the typical business owner’s policy but may be purchased as a separate policy through the National Flood Insurance Program.
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