Your Business

Disaster Preparation for Your Small Business

By Rieva Lesonsky

Have you thought about disaster preparation? Schools, public buildings, and even entire cities prepare plans and practice safety procedures for natural disasters. Losing a building is one thing, but what about your employees, your important data, or your merchandise? How big a hit would your profits take if there were a significant interruption in your business? Would you be able to pick up the pieces if some of your customers or clients moved on to another supplier or service provider?

Your chances for surviving a crisis are better if you prepare for one. Start by creating a detailed business disaster plan. U.S. government agencies have several resources available to help you:

3 Resources for SMB Disaster Preparation

  1. Ready.gov/business

    Ready Business covers disasters ranging from hurricanes and data loss to terrorism and serious illness such as the H1N1 flu virus pandemic. Using an “all hazards approach,” Ready Business offers assistance so you can develop your own preparedness plan based on a five-step system: Program Management, Planning, Implementation, Testing and Exercises, and Program Improvement.

  2. PrepareMyBusiness.org

    Coauthored and operated by the Small Business Administration (SBA) and Agility Recovery, a disaster solutions company, PrepareMyBusiness contains a variety of free downloadable forms and documents you can use to inventory your business, assess your risks, and run tests on your business’s ability to recover.

  3. FEMA Small Business Toolkit

    The FEMA Toolkit offers templates, training documents, exercises and other resources to help increase your small business’s resiliency. A Business Continuity Plan helps you define roles and responsibilities for you and your employees, then guides you in determining the lines of authority, succession of management and more. You can also plan for how to interact with external organizations including contractors and vendors.

Want to go the extra mile? Consider getting certified in first aid or CPR. Find a Red Cross class in your area and encourage employees to do the same.

Once your comprehensive disaster preparation plan is in place, share it with employees, vendors, customers, and even family members. Ask your vendors what plans they have in case disaster strikes. What kind of backup systems do they use and how would you receive supplies or orders if your vendor’s business is inoperable? Think about compiling a list of reliable backup suppliers so your business isn’t affected if the disaster happens to a business you have a relationship with.

Is your business insurance coverage up-to-date? Most insurers offer policies to cover extra expenses and lost capital due to downtime caused by a disaster. Conduct a business impact analysis and ask your industry association what types of insurance similar businesses carry.

Today’s smart business owners keep most of their crucial data in cloud storage, so it’s (in theory) always recoverable. It’s important to ask your cloud representatives what security measures they have in place to protect your data. Also consider the security of your website. How often does your webhosting company back up your website? Online hacking has become so common, having to recreate your entire website from scratch is not a far-fetched fear. On your end, institute security basics in your business including instituting a strong password policy, prohibiting employees from accessing important data on their mobile devices, and investing in a good malware and virus protection program.

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