Washington Businesses Are Vulnerable To Disasters

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Release date: 
March 21, 2001
Release Number: 
1361-27

Olympia, WA -- When disaster strikes, as it has with the Nisqually Earthquake, homes and families are always hard hit,. But they're not the only victims of these events-businesses are often impacted, too.

On average, Washington has experienced one federally declared disaster every year, since the late 1950s. Buildings are damaged, inventory ruined, suppliers disabled, employees can't get to work. Yet orders must be filled and payrolls met-all under seemingly impossible conditions.

The Washington Emergency Management Division, FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster officials have compiled a list of suggestions to help businesses assess the risk of a disaster and implement measures in advance, to better prepare them to continue operations during a disaster.

Among the suggestions are:

  • Perform a risk analysis of the most likely type of disaster you might have. Think flood, fire, earthquake. If you are not sure whether your business is at risk from natural hazards, check with your local building official, city engineer, or planning and zoning administrator. They can tell you whether you are in an area where floods, earthquakes or wildfires are likely to occur.

  • Protecting your business from disasters caused by natural hazards can involve a variety of actions, from inspecting and maintaining your buildings to installing protective devices. Most of these actions, especially those that affect the structure of your buildings or their utility systems should be carried out by qualified maintenance staff or professional contractors licensed to work in your state, county, or city.

  • Develop an emergency plan. Assign employees specific tasks. Practice these assignments. Simulate events that will help you perfect these plans.

  • Develop a recovery plan that includes employee contact numbers, alternate operating locations and backup suppliers. Keep tax and payroll records, records of inventory and essential information at an alternate site.

  • Protect your data. If computers are vital to your business, back up your system. Make copies of essential information and store the disks in a safe place, preferably off site.

  • Store minimal inventory. Maintain three to five days inventory on hand - if a disaster occurs the loss isn't as great.

  • Elevate or relocate. Raise computers above the flood level and move them away from large windows. Move heavy and fragile objects to low shelves.

  • Develop a working relationship with emergency management agencies, local law enforcement, fire department, and building officials. They can provide a wealth of disaster preparedness information and support.

Funding for hazard mitigation projects may be available to businesses that were victims of the recent earthquake who qualify for SBA low-interest loans. SBA may increase an applicant's disaster loan by 20 percent if the funds are used for mitigation projects to protect the business from future earthquake damages.

You can also request a helpful publication, Protecting Business Operations-Natural Hazard Mitigation, FEMA's publication number 331, by calling FEMA Publications toll-free at 1-800-480-2520.

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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