ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- When disaster strikes, businesses are affected too: buildings can be damaged, inventory ruined, and records lost. Yet, orders still must be filled and payrolls must be met. Owners, caught up in building the business, meeting with customers and handling employee issues, often fail to prepare for the worst.
According to disaster recovery officials, preparing for a disaster, and limiting the damage a business in the area most likely would suffer, is something every business owner can do.
"Begin with a risk-analysis for the most probable types of disasters you might have ? in Alaska that is most likely flooding, winter storms, and earthquakes," said Scott Simmons, Alaska's hazard mitigation officer. "Develop both an emergency plan and a recovery plan for your business, assigning special tasks and making sure employees know in advance what to do if a disaster occurs and what the alternate plan is if communications are interrupted."
There are four critical parts to disaster preparation: making the company's physical location less vulnerable, ensuring that business data such as sales records, customer lists, tax information, etc. is backed up offsite, purchasing adequate insurance coverage, and formulating a contingency plan to continue operating even if the company's location is heavily damaged or destroyed.
When it comes to insuring a company, it's important to know exactly what the policy covers and doesn't cover. "Time after time in disaster events, businesses as well as individuals are unable to recover fully because they were not properly insured," Simmons said.
Don't assume that a standard business policy will cover flooding or earthquakes. The chances are that it won't, and that insurance for these kinds of disasters will have to be purchased separately. It may also be a good idea to consider business interruption insurance that would cover lost profits should you, or under some policies, your suppliers or customers, be unable to operate.
According to John Graves, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) floodplain specialist with the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), "Any business owner within an NFIP participating community can buy flood insurance for the structure and contents." There is a 30-day waiting period before the policy takes effect.
For information on NFIP maps, call 1-877-336-2627. For flood insurance information, contact your insurance agent or call 1-800-427-4661.
There are a number of physical precautions against flood damage that can be taken, including: elevating or relocating any appliances, critical equipment or machinery well in advance of a flood. Items such as furnaces, water heaters, copiers, computer networks, etc. can be elevated on a raised platform base. Electrical panel boxes and outlets can be relocated higher.
FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident, initiates mitigation activities and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA works closely with State and local emergency managers, law enforcement personnel, firefighters, and other first responders. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.