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Take 5: Business Owners Can Survive Unthinkable Catastrophes

by Don Newman

Is your business prepared for a flood, cyber-attack, chemical spill, fire—or even a long-term power outage? No one wants to consider these misfortunes happening to their business, but with advanced planning, businesses will be in a much better position to survive a natural disaster or terror attack.

The longer your business is not operating, the more likely you are to lose customers permanently to your competitors. The New Jersey Business Action Center helps business owners focus on “emergency preparedness” so they can possess the capability to respond to save lives, property and return to normal operations after a disaster occurs.

Because up to 40 percent of small businesses never re-open following a disaster, here are five recommended strategies to help small businesses prepare—and survive—the worst:

1.) House documents on the cloud, not your office computer:
Most businesses keep on-site records and files that are essential to normal operations. To reduce your vulnerability, determine which records, files and materials are most important and back them up. These may include income tax forms, QuickBooks files, customer contact lists, strategy documents and passwords. From there, save these files on the cloud using an affordable service like Dropbox, Google Docs or Box so you can access them from anywhere.

2.) Keep office property secure:
Raise computers above the flood level and move them away from large windows; move heavy and fragile objects to low shelves, and secure equipment that could move or fall during an earthquake. In addition, hire a cyber security expert to make sure your systems are secure and virus free. Protect your most important documents, credit card numbers, email correspondence and more by hiring an expert to set up a secure system well in advance.

3.) Plan for business continuity:
Establish a clear plan for decision-making if the business owner is incapacitated. Ensure passwords as well as keys, alarm codes, phone forwarding, etc., are provided to trusted employees in the event of a disaster. Consider financial obligations you will have during interruption, such as payroll and debt service, and ensure a system is in place to pay bills electronically. Establish a social media presence for your business (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter) and use the social media tools to communicate with your customers about your business’ status.

4.) Make sure your insurance is current:
Review your insurance coverage with an agent or your insurance center; specifically check the status of your business’ interruption insurance. If disaster occurs, you can file a business interruption insurance claim detailing lost income and steps required before the business can reopen. For insurance and tax purposes, be sure to maintain written and photographic inventories of all important materials and equipment—and store in a safety deposit box if possible.

5.) Consider installing an emergency generator:
Power outages are common- place during disasters, and they may last for sever- al days. As a result, even businesses that are not severely damaged can suffer losses because of the interruption of normal operations or the loss of perishable stock. You can reduce these losses and speed the recovery process by installing an emergency generator in advance.

Although we can’t prevent man-made or natural disasters, business owners can take proactive measures to minimize disruption and reduce loss so you can return to normal operations as soon as possible.

Don Newman serves as director of small business advocacy for the Business Action Center, New Jersey’s “one-stop” shop for businesses, helping companies to stay and grow in the Garden State.

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 6, Issue 11 (November, 2016).
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