Unusual weather patterns in the last few years have wreaked havoc on small business owners across the U.S. Those who were unprepared when big storms occurred faced financial losses caused by power outages, supply chain disruptions and temporary shutdowns.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2011 and 2012 were the two most extreme years on record for destructive weather events, causing more than $170 billion in damages, much of that to businesses. Downtime in the aftermath of extreme weather events is costly—about $3,000 per day for small businesses, according to the Institute for Business and Home Safety.
As winter approaches, now’s a good time to build a disaster preparedness plan that will protect your organization, your clients and your bottom line in the event of a weather-related emergency. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Review your insurance coverage. Make sure you understand what’s covered, and if you need flood insurance. Check into business interruption insurance, which helps you cover operating expenses if you’re forced to temporary close the business. Calculate the cost of business interruptions for a day, one week, a month or six months. Build a cash reserve that will allow your company to function during the recovery phase.
Stockpile emergency supplies as needed. If you’re in an area that gets snow, make sure you have a good supply of rock salt or kitty litter, and adequate snow removal equipment. Get a generator and keep it serviced so it’ll work when there’s a power outage. Store extra supplies of batteries for those devices that need them.
Prepare your supply chain. Develop professional relationships with alternate vendors, in case your primary supplier isn’t available. Place occasional orders with them so they’ll regard you as an active customer. Create a contact list for important business contractors and vendors you plan to use in an emergency. Keep this list with other documents filed at an easily accessible place, and also at a protected off-site location.
Create a crisis communications plan. Make sure your staff, customers, vendors, contractors—everyone you do business with—know what’s going on in the aftermath of a disaster. Establish an email alert system, keeping primary and secondary email addresses for your employees, vendors and customers. Use Twitter to provide real-time updates to the community so they know you’re still in business and in the process of rebuilding after the disaster.
To find out how disaster preparedness affects your company’s bottom line, and for more planning tips, sign up for the free November 12 webinar hosted by the U.S. Small Business Administration and Agility Recovery. The live presentation will be followed by a question and answer session. Space is limited, so register now.