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Our Community Focus

Preparing your Business for a Disaster: Step 1

Feb 01, 2015 01:29PM ● By Jennifer Neys

By Jim Bonato

Your business or the business you work for is vitally important to your family’s financial security. Thinking in broader terms, every area of our country relies on its local businesses to remain open after a disaster in order for communities to recover quickly. Surprisingly, fewer than half of all American businesses, mostly small businesses, have taken the time to develop a disaster plan.

The first step in developing your plan is to identify the risks to your business and the hazards you and your employees face.  Recall the business closures caused by the recent earthquake in Napa.  Every minute your doors are closed creates an increasing opportunity for your competitors to step in and take a bite out of your market share.  Waiting until a disaster strikes may be catastrophically too late to identify what you wish you had done to prepare your business for that event.

Very few buildings in our area are of unreinforced masonry – the construction material most susceptible to collapse in an earthquake. However, tenant improvements consisting of interior walls of unreinforced masonry or walls not properly integrated into the support structure of the building may put employees at risk of injury due to wall collapse. Likewise, unbraced suspended ceilings and suspended lighting, unanchored tall shelving and equipment, file cabinets and improperly anchored overhead HVAC equipment may pose a significant risk of injury and contribute to a terrific (and costly) mess. Any weakness in the installation of overhead fire protection sprinklers and piping may create a major disruption to your business operations should a break occur from lateral shaking forces of an earthquake.

If your computers are damaged, do you have a plan to retrieve and access all the data you maintain about products, inventory, vendors, customers, accounts receivable and accounts payable, payroll, and employees?  Hopefully, files are backed-up in “the cloud” or on flash drives or discs that are stored offsite.

How about one of THE most important assets of your business – your employees?  Will they be able to keep your business open and running?  Their focus will be on their own safety and the safety of their families and homes. Will they be available to help you keep your doors open? Are they prepared at home if a disaster occurs while they are at work, and vice versa?  Is your business equipped with adequate fire extinguishers, first aid supplies, drinking water, and non-perishable food items? Are there customized emergency plans for persons who are physically challenged?

A meeting with your staff and employees will be very beneficial in identifying the risks they see to the business, its continuity, customer service, and jobs.  Next month, we’ll begin addressing those risks and hazards.