NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Restoring business operations is a crucial component in Tennessee's recovery from the tornadoes and severe storms that blew through the Volunteer State in early February.
Businesses with thorough disaster preparedness plans generally have less damage, less economic loss, and less down time following a disaster.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) endorse disaster readiness for businesses -- not only as a means to reduce damage and loss but also as a way to help a community recover after a disaster.
"Businesses that reopen quickly after a disaster not only serve as engines of recovery, they also help to restore a sense of normalcy to the community," said Gracia Szczech, federal coordinating officer.
Businesses should consider several elements in preparing for a disaster. Not only is it important to protect the staff, building, data and company inventory during a damaging event, it is also critical to prepare a plan to continue operations in case most everything is destroyed. A good plan may include provisions to relocate to a pre-identified site, retrieve data (including employee, customer and vendor records), and a way to operate efficiently with a smaller staff of key individuals.
"A problem many businesses face in the aftermath of a natural disaster is their employees may have been greatly affected," said James Bassham, Director of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. "Good planning could help mitigate the impact of a diminished workforce."
There are many Internet resources available to help with disaster planning for businesses.
FEMA provides a step-by-step approach to emergency planning, response and recovery for companies of all sizes in its Emergency Management Guide for Business and Industry, a checklist for business recovery, and other "how to" resources at www.fema.gov/business .
The Institute for Business and Home Safety, www.ibhs.org/business_protection/, developed the Open for Business Toolkit, which provides the means to develop both property protection and business continuity plans for small business owners.
Any business preparedness plan should include a thorough review of insurance coverage to determine what damages will be covered, how claims are filed and how claims are paid. A good Internet resource for business insurance information is the Insurance Information Institute at www.iii.org/individuals/business.
?One of the benchmarks of a community's recovery after a disaster is the number of businesses back in operation," Bassham said. "Those who prepare an effective disaster plan, which includes continuity of operations contingencies, will be able to contribute most effectively to a community's recovery."
Business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties from the tornadoes and severe storms must apply for assistance by registering by 5 p.m. CST, April 7, 2008: Online at www.fema.gov, or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for those with special speech or hearing needs.
More preparedness tips for businesses are available on the SBA's Web site: www.sba.gov.
For information about SBA's disaster loan assistance, call the SBA toll-free at (800) 659-2955 or visit SBA online: www.sba.gov. For those with special speech or hearing needs, SBA's TTY (800) 8...