SBA urges businesses to prepare for severe weather

economic-forecast-headerThe U.S. Small Business Administration joined other federal and local government agencies across the country in reminding people to prepare for severe weather.

As much of the eastern half of the nation prepared for severe weather, including blizzard conditions and accumulating snow, the SBA encouraged small business owners to follow these tips in preparing for emergency situations.

Here are a few things your can do to prepare for the upcoming winter storm:

• Determine your greatest risk potential. It might come from loss of heat, frozen pipes (that can burst, causing water damage), or loss of access caused by icy conditions or flooding. What would happen if you had to shut down your business for several days? Look at the building where you do business and assess the property damage risks. If you do this early enough, you’ll have time to make structural upgrades that can prevent possible future storm, wind or water damage.

• Calculate the cost of business interruptions for one week, one month and six months. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be prepared to make a plan to check out insurance options, or work on building a cash reserve that will allow your company to function during the post-disaster recovery phase.

• Review your insurance coverage. Contact your agent to find out if your policy is adequate for your needs. Consult with a business insurance expert to advise you on the right coverage for your situation. When buying insurance, ask “How much can I afford to lose?” It’s a good idea to know the value of your property.

• Build a crisis communications plan to make sure your staff, customers, vendors, and contractors know what’s going on. Establish an email alert system. Make sure you have primary and secondary email addresses for your employees, and everyone you do business with. Create a Facebook page, and use Twitter to keep the public aware you’re still in business, and that you’re in the process of recovering after the disaster.

• Prepare your supply chain. Calculate the cost of business interruptions for a day, one week, a month, six months. Once you’ve done that, you can make a plan to check out insurance options. Another idea: Build a cash reserve that will allow your company to function during the recovery phase.

• Develop professional relationships with alternative vendors, in case your primary contractor can’t service your needs. Place occasional orders with them so they will regard you as an active customer when you need them during an emergency. Insure what can’t be protected.

• It’s also a good idea to find out if your key suppliers have a recovery plan in place. Create a contact list for important business contractors and vendors you plan to use in an emergency. Keep this list with other documents filed in a place that’s accessible, and also at a protected off-site location.

• As we move into colder months, being ready for emergencies means preparing for more than just snow days. Power outages, reduced access to area roads and facilities, auto accidents, and employee illness are all common winter threats to your business.

• Plan for internal and external emergency communication. Once your team knows how to handle an emergency, review how you’ll share the status of your business with the public in the event you can’t operate as planned. Make sure you can access your business website and social media accounts remotely or by mobile device so you can post your operating status.

• If there’s a warning period before a threat like a snowstorm, start posting on those accounts to alert customers that your hours and functions may change depending on the forecast. It’s important for your internal team to communicate regularly throughout an emergency event, but you also need to notify customers, clients, and suppliers of those situations as well.

• Turn to resources to help you anticipate emergency events. Don’t rush through or skip emergency planning. Take time to review each part of your company’s plans, and be sure to consider and plan for new threats.

• Looking for a checklist to help keep you organized and recognizes threats you might not have considered? PrepareMyBusiness.org (link is external) offers a variety of emergency planning worksheets, and SCORE’s Disaster Planning Guide (link is external) can help you identify risks and prepare for the potential impact of a variety of unexpected events.

To find out more about SBA’s disaster assistance program, visit www.sba.gov/disaster.

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