Preparing for a Disaster

Hurricanes have been devastating coastal areas and inland areas alike this 2017 season. Powerful winds, storm surges, heavy rains and flooding have deeply affected areas throughout the south and the Caribbean. While Dallas is usually spared impacts form hurricanes, North Texas has had and will continue to have its fair share of severe weather that should not be ignored by small business owners.

The best time to prepare your small business for a natural disaster is now, before your business is in the path of severe weather. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, up to 40% of businesses affected by disasters never reopen. Planning for the worst can help you understand what to expect and mitigate potential hazards. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, and the American Red Cross recommends a thorough analysis of the following emergency preparedness questions for small businesses:  

1.       How vulnerable would the business be if a disaster or other emergency were to occur?

2.       If your business was to be shut down for more than a few days, what impacts will it have on your day-to-day operations?

3.       What is your plan to protect the business and its employees before, during and after an emergency?

Assessing what disasters could potentially impact your small business is necessary to understand how to prepare for them. Power outages, server failures, burst pipes and fires could happen to any location. Other types of disasters such as flooding, tornados and hail could be more dependent on seasonal weather patterns but have all occurred throughout the Dallas area.

Creating a simple and clear emergency response plan, as recommended by FEMA’s Emergency Preparedness Resources for Businesses, can help you and your employees remain safe and calm in the face of an emergency. Implementation takes commitment of time and other resources to ensure that all steps are taken to reduce the impact of the disaster and return to business as soon as feasibly possible. Other free toolkits are available for small business owners, like this one through the Insurance Institute for Business & Home, that can be downloaded as a .pdf or Word document. And if you are affected by a natural disaster, there are recovery resources available, including low-interest loans for eligible disaster areas.

Every business should have a plan for what to do before, during and after an emergency. If your small business does not have a plan for getting your business running after a disaster, FEMA provides a free downloadable software program called the Business Continuity Planning Suite. The software includes a 30 minute video course that explains business continuity planning and process.