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How to Prepare Your Small Business to Weather a Storm

By: Allstate

 

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Does your small business have an emergency storm-preparedness plan? You may think you don’t have the time or resources to create one. But businesses of all sizes can—and really should—create a simple list of important “to-dos” in case a natural disaster or other emergency interrupts your normal course of operation. The good news is that you don’t need a big budget or a background in emergency planning to get this done. Here are key recommendations from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS):

Identify your dangers.
To begin, focus on the top threats most likely to hit your company, from lightning strikes to hurricanes. IBHS offers a planning kit with a “Vulnerability and Risk Assessment Tool” to help you determine which emergencies might affect your area. The American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also have good business preparedness resources. Once you identify potential dangers, you should generate a list of projects to help reduce those risks.
List major work tasks and workarounds.
By identifying and prioritizing your core business functions, you can develop workarounds that can enable your business to better respond to a major disruption. If you run a graphic design business, for instance, break down your work into discrete tasks: Website design, electronic client proofs, printing, web image uploads, etc. Then consider each task: Could it be completed from another location (with a laptop or tablet, for instance) or by a vendor if your office suffered a power outage? Could you temporarily subcontract to a colleague in another town? 

Plan for crisis communications.
IBHS recommends keeping an updated list of employees’ key tasks and your respective workarounds, along with client and employee home and cell phone numbers, email addresses, and emergency contact numbers. Be sure you can access this information outside of your office—perhaps from an encrypted, cloud-based server. Do the same for key customers and vendors. Consider also storing this information on paper (in case computers and the Internet are down) in a fireproof home safe or an offsite safe deposit box. Social media can also help: Consider using Twitter, Facebook, text messaging or website announcements to stay in touch with customers and employees.

Create a backup tech plan.

Whether you run a florist shop or a consulting company, your business would probably come to a screeching halt if your computers or phone systems went down. Make sure electronic equipment is always stored off the floor, in case of water damage. Always back up critical documents and databases in at least two places—one of which should be offsite, such as a backup hard drive at your home or an encrypted cloud-based storage service. Think about outsourcing phones to a secondary location in case of emergency.
Consider your finances.
A business credit card or line of credit can help you pay for emergency supplies or services during a storm. However, since power outages can also temporarily take down electronic payment systems (credit cards and ATM access), IBHS suggests keeping some emergency cash in a fireproof safe. To help you decide how much emergency cash to store, check your business insurance policy to find out how much cash would be replaced for a covered loss. Also, consider how you’ll handle employee payroll during a disaster. Having a business insurance policy with business interruption coverage can be a good way to help take care of salaries and operating expenses while your company recovers from storm damage.
Of course, once you’ve done all this to protect your business against the unexpected, you’ll have to update it periodically and review potential scenarios with your team. After all, advance preparation is really the best way to prevent a potentially bad scenario from getting worse and to make sure you can get your business up and running quickly after a serious storm.
Published: July 16, 2013
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Allstate

The Allstate Corporation is the largest publicly held personal lines property and casualty insurer in America. Allstate was founded in 1931 and became a publicly traded company in 1993. We are listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the trading symbol ALL. Allstate is widely known through the "You're In Good Hands With Allstate ®" slogan. As of year-end 2012, Allstate had $126.9 billion in total assets. In 2013, Allstate was number 92 on the Fortune 500 list of largest companies in America.

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