Most people know the motto of The Boy Scouts of America is “Be Prepared.” It is a good life lesson not only for young boys, but for business owners!

Certain states are more prone to specific disasters than others. In Florida, we have to worry about hurricanes, in California, its earthquakes. But your business does not have to be located in either of these states to worry about disaster preparedness. Just about every state in the union faces the possibilities of some kind of natural disaster, many states are at risk of multiple disasters. New York for example, is at risk for earthquakes, hurricanes, blizzards, wildfires, and tornadoes!

According to a recent study conducted by Business Insider, from 2000 to 2015, natural disasters cost the global economy 2.5 Trillion dollars, and at least 1 in 3 small business owners say they have personally been affected by a storm or extreme weather. The Institute for Business and Home Safety says “…at least 25 percent of businesses will close after a natural disaster and never reopen.”

Keep in mind, that it does not take a major disaster to seriously impact your business, even a loss of power that shuts down your phone systems or order processing for a day or so could lead to incalculable lost revenue.

The fact of the matter is natural disasters seem to be on the rise. The key to minimizing the impacts of disasters is to have a Disaster Preparedness Plan in place for your business. Here are some basic tips to help you be prepared regardless of your type of business or where it is located.

Safety First

Should an emergency occur during business hours, of course, the safety of yourself and your staff is of primary importance. Every business location should have an evacuation plan for personnel and customers. This means more than knowing where the emergency exits are located. You need to designate someone to be in charge of communicating with employees and customers, and implementing your evacuation plan in a calm and orderly fashion.

It is a good idea to know to assign a “Team Captain” to take charge and coordinate your plan in the event of an emergency. Check the backgrounds of your employees for anyone that has had military or other kinds of training that would make him or her ideal for this role.

Many businesses find it helpful to bring in an expert for some additional training, or workshops to discuss what to do in case of an emergency. This can cover everything from crowd control techniques, to basic first aid, to how to work with emergency response teams.

IT and Communication

Once you know you have a plan for your people, the next most important thing is your communications and records. Make sure all employees keep their mobile phones charged. This may seem like a “no-brainer,” but most people do not charge their phones until the battery is almost dead. Mobile phones may be the only line of communication in a disaster. Keeping phones charged, and even having an extra battery or two, is a great way to make sure phone communication stays open. Have a phone chain for employees to pass along vital information to one another.

Another recommendation is to have a backup cloud-based, or virtual PBX system that can be used to route calls to different phones and store voicemail messages.

In addition to having a plan in place for employee communications, you need to know who to contact in an emergency, and how they can help. Be sure you have contact information for:

  • Local and state police
  • Fire department and emergency medical services
  • Local government officials, emergency management office
  • Local public health agency
  • Local American Red Cross chapter
  • National Weather Service
  • Utility companies
  • Neighboring businesses

Protecting your vital data and records is essential. Are you servers backed up? Off premises or cloud computer servers are the best way to make sure that accounting and other key records and critical compunctions such as emails, are maintained in the event of fire or other disaster that results in the destruction of your building.

Part of your disaster preparedness plans should include making daily electronic backups of important documents, files and databases. You need to make copies of those records and store them in an off-site, physically secure facility. Articles of incorporation, accounts receivable, client records and important personnel and administrative documents should be among the priorities for back-up.

How MBAF Can Help

In the aftermath of a storm or other disaster, you may be facing more than merely physical damage as your business tries to recover.

By combining traditional accounting practices and investigative techniques, MBAF can provide forensic accounting services to help give a disaster-stricken operation an advantage should any legal issues arise.

Forensic accounting is also invaluable when insurers question claims and when important financial records are lost. By recreating documentation, forensic accounting can help establish actual losses, compile insurance claim and facilitate settlement with the insurance company.

And of the “disaster” is of another sort, if your business is a victim of digital tampering, sabotage or fraud, forensic accounting can help to uncover the truth and resolve problems.

Everything Else

And finally, stock up on supplies. Think of what you’ll need to stay functional for at least a week or two. In the days or weeks following a flood, hurricane or other natural disaster, you may not be able to get to retail stores or receive any deliveries. Do you have the supplies you need to keep it business as usual? Now is the time to make sure you have an adequate supply of everything from bottled water to office supplies.

A disaster preparedness plan for your business is one of those things that you have but hope you never use, rather than need and wish you had. Proper disaster planning can go a long way to giving you the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your business is ready, willing, and able to shift into disaster response mode, whenever it may be necessary.