SPARKS, Nev. -- Over 40 local businesses took advantage of free disaster assessments by qualified disaster mitigation professionals in Sparks, Nev., late June. Focusing on the physical plant, operational considerations and data and voice communications systems, the assessments were performed by the IBM Crisis Response Team, who had already conducted similar inspections on several key city-owned facilities.
Since being designated a Project Impact community by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 1998, Sparks has turned its attention to building stronger community partnerships, assessing risks, prioritizing needs and building team support for disaster resistance.
As recently as January 1997, the residents and businesses of Sparks were devastated by floods. With the memory of disaster so vivid in their minds, the city found willing partners interested in opening their businesses to assessments.
Businesses were provided a disaster readiness questionnaire to take notes for making improvements based on recommendations made during the on-site walk-throughs. They were also given information on the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), FEMA disaster assistance and a list of what businesses should keep on hand as part of a Corporate Office Survival Kit. "Pre-disaster planning and preparation may make the difference between a business' survival or failure," said Randy Waterman, Risk Manager for the city of Sparks.
Some of the topics discussed were nonstructural earthquake bracing, storage practices, vulnerability to power supply interruptions, data storage practices, and where to obtain and how to properly use sandbags to protect against flooding.
The business disaster assessments are designed to identify things that can be done in advance to reduce the financial and operational impact of a disaster. "While disasters such as floods, earthquakes, fires and wind storms are always going to take their toll, there are measures business owners can implement now that may help reduce potential losses and expedite their recovery," added Waterman.
Effective planning and mitigation efforts before a disaster often make the difference between being able to stay in business following a disaster or having to close down. "This should be done with every company moving into this (Sparks) area," said Robert Garton, spokesperson for Calbo, Inc., a local company participating in the assessments.