In light of the recent catastrophic events, natural disasters seem to be back on America’s radar—for now. While the Oklahoma tornados remain a fresh wound on America’s mind, surveys show that Americans tend to quickly forget about the devastating effects of natural disasters, not only on people’s lives and homes but also on small and local businesses.

In a survey conducted earlier this month by the American Red Cross and FedEx, 70% of small businesses revealed that a mere six months after Super-storm Sandy, they don’t feel at risk for a similar disaster.

  • Additionally, 21% of small businesses reported being affected by Hurricane Sandy or some other natural disaster,
  • BUT only 50% of those affected think it’s likely they’ll be affected by a similar disaster this year.

Whether or not they think a disaster is likely, are small businesses at least prepared for another disaster?

  • Since Sandy, less than 10% of small businesses have taken any disaster preparedness actions based on the consequences of the storm.

Technology, however, appears to be one business element that more small businesses are prepared for in the face of a disaster.

• 51% of small businesses have some sort of plan for continuing to provide services to customers. Of those…

  • 92% have a data backup plan
  • 81% have a server recovery plan

• However this means 49% still don’t have any continued operation plans at all.

How to Prepare

Here are a few quick tips to prepare your business and its employees for a disaster:

Keep basic safety supplies in the office: first aid kits, fire extinguishers, up-to-date smoke detectors, AEDs, etc. These are both preventative and useful in the case of disaster (or even a general office emergency).

Make an emergency plan: consider the types of natural disasters that are common in your area, and write out an actual procedural plan. It should include evacuation routes to a pre-determined safe location to meet, systems for connecting with local officials and methods for communicating with all employees (i.e. have everyone’s phone number and a strategy for emergency texting).

Create a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) for your business: Make plans for continuing operations if the office or business space is not accessible. Identify the staff and functions critical to operations, and the records and documents that need to be backed up and easily retrievable.

Look into relevant insurance: depending on the region your business is located in, there are several supplementary forms of business insurance that may not be included in your Property Insurance (which doesn’t usually cover floods, earthquakes, etc.).

From earthquakes in the West, to storms in the East and South, and tornados in the Midwest, natural disasters are a real risk for every business, not just something that “happens to someone else.” One disaster could destroy your business; the only way to protect it is to be prepared.

Source: FedEx and the American Red Cross