ATLANTA, Ga. -- Restoring business is an important part of recovery from disasters. Businesses that plan for disaster before a storm typically have less damage, loss, and downtime than those that do not. It's a good reason, according to federal and state officials, to include disaster preparations in the normal course of business planning.
By mid-June, 490 businesses affected by the May 11-12 tornadoes in Georgia had registered with FEMA for disaster assistance and were referred to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for low-interest disaster loan applications.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) 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.
"Small businesses can take the lead in recovering from a disaster," said GEMA Deputy State Coordinating Officer Joe McKinney. "When local businesses are able to reopen quickly they serve as engines of recovery, and also help restore a sense of community normalcy."
Businesses should consider several elements in preparing for a disaster. Not only is it important to protect the staff, building, data and inventory of a company during a damaging event, it's also critical to prepare a plan to continue operations after 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 to operate efficiently with a smaller staff of key individuals.
"Just as individuals and families should be prepared, businesses should be disaster-ready," said Jeff Bryant, FEMA federal coordinating officer for the tornado disaster. "A sound business strategy should include a disaster preparedness plan and perhaps a continuity of operations plan."
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 in the FEMA publication library at www.fema.gov. Additional preparedness information may be found at the Department of Homeland Security's site: www.ready.gov/business. Visit the U.S. Small Business Administration's (SBA) Web site at www.sba.gov and search for "disaster preparedness" to view preparation tips and a list of topics business owners should consider in planning.
Business owners may want to consider purchasing flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The proceeds of a claim payment are usually received within a very short period of time, allowing insured property owners to restore their normal course of business. For questions concerning the NFIP, contact a local insurance agent or NFIP Customer Service at (888) 379-9531.
"One of the benchmarks of a community's recovery after a disaster is the number of businesses back in operation," said Bryant. "Those that prepare an effective disaster plan will be able to contribute the most to a community's recovery effort."
FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.