WICHITA, Kan. -- When the next flood or other disaster strikes, getting your company back to business quickly may depend on emergency planning done today. "Planning for disasters, natural or manmade, will help protect your business investment and give your company a better chance for survival," said Michael L. Karl, federal coordinating officer for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Angee Morgan, Kansas state coordinating officer, urged business owners to think first about the basics of survival: fresh water, food, clean air and warmth in preparing for emergencies. "Talk to your co-workers about what emergency supplies the company can provide and which ones individuals should consider keeping on hand," Morgan said.
Business owners should include these additional factors in their disaster planning:
- Carefully assess the risks (e.g., flood, fire, tornado, etc.) for each specific business location and plan accordingly.
- Identify operations critical to your company's survival and recovery.
- Determine which staff members, materials, procedures and equipment are necessary to keep the business operating and establish procedures for succession of management.
- Plan what you will do if your building, plant or store is not accessible.
- Your employees and co-workers are your business's most valuable assets and should be included at all levels in planning for and responding to a disaster.
- Maintain two-way communications with employees before, during and after a disaster; promote family and individual preparedness and support employee health after a disaster.
- Establish a means of contacting employees who have been displaced from their homes by the disaster. Also, be sure employees have an alternate method of contacting the business if it is forced from its normal location.
- Make an evacuation plan should a disaster require employees, customers and visitors to leave the workplace quickly.
- For situations where it is best to stay where you are, such as during a tornado or a chemical incident, plan for sheltering in place.
- Maintain a list of telephone and fax numbers of employees, customers, vendors, bankers, attorneys, insurance agents, professional recovery services, equipment rentals and emergency agencies.
- Prepare for extended utility interruptions during and after a disaster. Speak with service providers about potential alternatives and identify back-up options such as portable generators to power the vital aspects of your business in an emergency.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), Office of Disaster Assistance, recommends businesses have an annual insurance "check-up" to assure coverage meets the specific risks at the business site, to be sure both the building and its contents are covered, and to protect against business interruptions. The SBA reminds business owners that most hazard insurance policies do not cover flood losses and that a separate policy through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) may be required.
The SBA also stresses the importance of preserving vital business records, financial data, accounting records, personnel information, marketing strategies, insurance records, inventory information, etc. Computerized records should be backed up daily and the backups, along with other vital records, should be stored off-site at least 500 miles away.
For more information on business preparedness and to order free sample emergency plans, business preparedness checklists and more, call 1-800-BE-READY (237-3239). You can download disaster preparedness information at www.sba.gov/services/disasterassistance or at www.ready.gov/business.