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How to Plan and Prepare your Business for Winter Emergencies

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How to Plan and Prepare your Business for Winter Emergencies

By Carol Chastang, SBA Official
Published: November 9, 2011 Updated: April 30, 2012

It was a scary Halloween weekend for those living on the Eastern seaboard as many plans were pre-empted by a massive and unseasonably heavy snowstorm. Travel was halted as more than 30 inches of snow fell in some places.  More than two million homes and businesses lost power as snapped tree branches toppled power lines, and several fatalities were reported.  Just a few days earlier, parts of Colorado and southwestern Wyoming were hit by heavy snows, unusual for late October.

Human nature keeps us from thinking about preparing for the storm until the rain or sleet is bearing down, and by then it’s too late.  But remembering those scenes of destruction – from the devastating tornadoes that hit the Midwest in the spring to the floods caused by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee – can also be viewed as an opportunity to take steps to protect your employees and your business.

The SBA and Agility Recovery Solutions recently hosted a free webinar giving tips on how to prepare your business for winter weather.  Regardless of where you run your business, all kinds of risks exist, and small businesses are particularly vulnerable. 

Go to this link to access the archived “Preparing your Business for the Winter Weather Season” webinar.  You can also get the power point slides here. Meanwhile, here are a few things your can do – at no cost – to jump-start your business continuity plan:

·         Determine your greatest risk potential.  It might come from loss of heat, frozen pipes (which can burst, causing water damage), or loss of access caused by icy conditions.  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, water or earthquake damage.

·         Calculate the cost of business interruptionsfor one week, one month and six months.  Once you’ve done that, you’ll be able investigate insurance options or build a cash reserve that will allow your company to function during the post-disaster recovery phase. It’s also a good idea to develop professional relationships with alternative vendors, in case your primary contractor can’t service your needs.  Place occasional orders with them so they regard you as an active customer when you need them. 

·         Review your insurance coverage.  Contactyour 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 so you’ll be able 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.

·         Consider a Telework Policy – Prepare for the possibility that employees won’t be able to get to work by developing an emergency telework policy. Read “How to Make Telework Work for your Small Business” for more information.

Each month SBA and Agility Recovery Solutions host a free webinar providing business continuity strategies.  The November 15th webinar will focus on how disaster preparedness affects a company’s bottom line.  Presented by Agility CEO Bob Boyd, the hour-long webinar begins at 2 p.m. Eastern Time.  Space is limited, so register now.

Related Resources

About the Author:

Carol Chastang

SBA Official

Comments:

As a pest control service company in Connecticut it was an especially difficult winter for us. The massive amounts of snow were a real problem for our pest exterminators. Now that the spring thaw is on we are very busy in termite extermination and carpenter ant treatments. During the winter we had to up our safety precautions with employees driving on the road in the snow. We spoke with our insurance agent for how we can better prepare employees to be safe on the roads and we made sure we used our electronic communications to let employees know how to proceed during the blizzard watches and various snow storms we had this winter. We used social media as well to post comments to customers about how to facilitate pest prevention during winter months to safeguard against any small animals and pests nesting in their garages and attics.
An area that is rarely touched upon when planning for weather emergencies is business cash flow. Ask yourself what will happen to my business if I receive no payments for 4 or more weeks? How will I stabilize cash flow and stay in operation while everyone is struggling to start over, rebuild or dig out? Can I cover my payroll during this type of event? Teaming up with a factor who will buy your account receivables, ”finance payroll and operating costs during these types of emergencies is a good solution to this problem.
Though there is no winter in my country, I still find your post very useful. More in particular to places which winter is present. It is very important to do all of this because it is your business that will be affected. Of course we would want to most like reduce the damage in all possible way. Apartment for Rent in the Philippines
Very important post. Specially at this time of drastic climate change. Unless you are well prepared, you are always in danger. Its same like financial crisis. We all know about but how we prepare ourselves to face it is most important. Thanks, Didar This post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Thank you.

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