One quarter of all businesses that close because of a disaster never reopen, according to the Institute of Business and Home Safety. Statistics like this demonstrate the importance for business owners to evaluate their potential risk of damage and take steps to lessen that risk ahead of time.
“Whether the disaster comes in the form of a weather occurrence, technological break-down, or scandal,” said Gene Munger, a crisis communication consultant based in Flagstaff, suggesting that contingency planning is the first step businesses can take to ensure they have less damage, loss and downtime.
“Businesses that have a disaster preparedness plan in place are able to restore their reputation and certainly the community’s recognition that, yes, this company has credibility and is well organized,” said Munger.
When large amounts of snow and ice caused the roof collapse at Bookmans in Flagstaff and subsequently the store itself had to close, Kate Beles, community coordinator for Bookmans, said having even a basic emergency action plan in place was paramount.
“Our plan boiled down to insurance and an evacuation plan… enough so that everyone was safe and the store would be re-buildable,” said Beles.
Another prime example of taking the initiative and pre-planning is Laurie’s Alpine Bakery, owned by Oscar and Laurie Miranda. Forced to evacuate during the Wallow Fire, they were able to get their shop up and running within a few days after returning to Alpine, due in large part to their contingency planning.
“We had a plan in place,” said Oscar. Their plan included an off-site data storage system that held the store’s inventory and suppliers’ information, in addition to alerting fellow businesses, their landlord, an emergency response team (i.e. fire department) and city officials of their preparedness disaster plan and location where they could be reached.
It is essential that businesses set up their disaster plans to include a way to continue doing business even if relocating temporarily is necessary. This would include an alternative premise that could accommodate the correct number of employees, a back-up system to retrieve client and employee records, and an insurance plan.
“Bookmans the company had insurance and that was why we were able to keep all of our (Flagstaff) employees on for the eleven months that the store was down,” said Beles. “Because we had insurance that covered their salaries and wages, no one was let go. Our landlord also had insurance for the building where Bookmans is located, which is how he was able to rebuild.”
While insurance coverage may seem like a no-brainer, the type of coverage and its limitations are what business owners should pay special attention to. A way to narrow down what kind of insurance protection a company may need is to be aware of the kind of disasters that your area or business could be susceptible to.
“Be informed,” advised Krist-Anah Watkins, an emergency services specialist for the American Red Cross (ARC). “Learn what disasters or emergencies are likely to occur in your town or city. Remember that a disaster can range from those affecting only your business, like a fire or medical emergency, to affecting your entire community, like heavy snowfall or flooding. When a major disaster occurs, you want to make sure that at least one person in your place of business is trained in first aid and CPR and knows how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED).” FBN
The American Red Cross is one resource businesses can use to begin their disaster preparedness plan. Online and onsite training for businesses is available through ARC, visit www.redcross.org for more information.