Ian Magnani of Magnani Caruso Dutton (MCD) thought his small New York City-based business was prepared for Superstorm Sandy. He had backups of all his records and put the drives in a bank vault. Unfortunately, Sandy knocked out power at MCD and the bank, which is a few blocks from MCD, and they couldn’t access their records for almost a week.
“Our backup files were too close to our current location,” Magnani told The Hartford, an insurance company that surveyed 451 small businesses affected by Sandy, and has recently released those findings in its company magazine, Small Biz Ahead.
Preparing for an emergency has become more crucial for small businesses. According to the report, the U.S. Chamber Foundation reported that between 60,000 and 100,000 small businesses were negatively impacted by Sandy. And that's just one major disaster: In 2011, the U.S. had a record 14 weather-related $1 billion disasters, the article says.
If you haven't implemented a safety plan for your small businesses, start by following these 10 inexpensive preparation tips.
1. Write a continuity plan. Writing a plan for what your small business should do during and after the emergency is crucial. The plan should be clear on who will make the decisions if the company’s leaders are unavailable and who will do the work of unavailable employees.
2. Back up your data. CrashPlan, a data recovery software company, says small businesses should consider copying their files on online remote servers, according to BusinessNewsDaily. So wherever the disaster strikes, your company will be able to access that data.
3. Know your substitute suppliers. Forty-four percent of the small businesses that responded to The Hartford’s survey had problems with suppliers after Hurricane Sandy. Have a list of suppliers who can temporarily replace your ordinary suppliers before the storm hits.
RELATED: Disaster-Proof Your Small Business
4. Review your policies. Reviewing your property insurance coverage is the most important step you can take to minimize the damage of a future disaster, reports The Hartford’s survey. You should scrutinize your policy “to make sure you have enough coverage” to survive a disaster, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA).
5. Invest in a generator. When power goes out, a secondary source of power to keep essential things up and running—even to charge electronics such as your cell phone or laptop, is important. In fact, investing in a generator was the second most important step businesses can take to minimize the damage of a future disaster, according to The Hartford’s survey.
6. Prepare for what's coming. Moving important property away from windows and putting important property on elevated surfaces can minimize your property damage.
7. Stash emergency funds. Putting aside money that will only be used in case of an emergency might be hard for small-business owners, but it can help your small business survive if it has to be closed for a while. You can also speak with an agent about business income insurance that will reimburse you for lost income.
RELATED: What Can You Do About Financial Losses From a Disaster?
8. Keep an updated contact list. Sixty-five percent of The Hartford survey’s respondents had problems connecting with customers, and 47 percent had problems contacting employees. You can minimize your problems by keeping and regularly updating your list of employees’ and customers’ phone numbers and email addresses. The SBA recommends contacting every person on the list after the disaster.
9. Find a temporary office location. Have a few sites that can be used to conduct business operations if the company’s regular site won't be able to be used.
10. Stock an emergency kit. The SBA advises small-business owners to formulate an emergency kit. The kit should include “one gallon of water per person per day, a three-day supply of nonperishable food, a battery-powered radio, a flashlight with extra batteries, a first aid kit and a cooler to keep refrigerated food cold in case of a power outage.”
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Martin has written and edited for 30 years. He's written thousands of Business, News, Sports, Tech and Features articles for newspapers & businesses. Martin blogs via Contently.com.
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