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Is Your Small Business Prepared for a Natural Disaster?

Submitted by Kenny Lumadue on Thursday, June 13, 2013

Over the last six months, natural disasters have dominated the news. In the Northeast, recovery in the wake of Hurricane Sandy is still underway. Multiple tornado outbreaks in May devastated towns in Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas. Wildfires continue to rage in Colorado. And the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season is well under way, with one named storm already causing minor damage on the East Coast.

How can weather events like these affect small businesses? For some, they may simply mean a few days of lost business. For others, the destruction of physical records, digital data, and basic infrastructure can be catastrophic. Having a smart data recovery plan in place is a must — see Tip #1 for how CMIT Solutions can help. But even more basic contingencies are often overlooked.

A recent survey conducted by the American Red Cross and FedEx found that 70% of small businesses don’t think they’re at risk for a large natural disaster — even though 21% of them were affected in 2012 by Hurricane Sandy or another natural disaster. Surprisingly, 50% of those who were affected last year think it’s unlikely they’ll be affected by a similar disaster in the next five years.

It’s common for small business to assume that they’re unlikely to be affected by natural disasters. But that kind of complacency can be devastating, especially when it’s easy to prepare for unforeseen impacts with a trusted partner like CMIT Solutions. Consider these five tips to keep your business safe in the face of weather-related threats:

1) Work with CMIT Solutions to implement a data disaster strategy. Losing even a small amount of information can be devastating for a small business. So setting up a sound data back-up plan that’s automatic and instantaneous should be your first move. Also consider classifying data based on sensitivity and security, setting up server recovery arrangements, and, if you haven’t already, considering cloud solutions for data recovery.

2) Draw up a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP). A COOP, also known as a Business Continuity Plan, acts a roadmap for continuing operations under adverse conditions. Losing access to office space can be a business owner’s worst nightmare. But setting up a contingency plan to keep things running in the face of even major setbacks can save you time, effort, and money in the short and near term. Identify key employees, critical procedures, and necessary records that are integral to your business. Then implement a clearly spelled-out plan that will keep those elements safe when disaster strikes — and put them back to work once it’s safe to do so.

3) Make sure your insurance policies are comprehensive and up to date. A December 2012 survey by Alibaba, Vendia, and Auctiva found that 84% of small businesses don’t have natural disaster insurance. Many property insurance policies don’t cover natural disasters, while some may cover wind damage but not flood damage. Read between the lines of your policy — and if it doesn’t seem adequate, look into supplementary coverage.

4) Maintain a basic emergency kit in the office. Seems simple, right? First-aid kits, fire extinguishers, sanitation supplies, dried food, drinking water, batteries, and even emergency lights are staples of the American workplace. But maintaining (and periodically updating) a dedicated emergency kit can keep your business prepared for disasters both large and small.  

5) If a major disaster does strike, communicating with customers — and spelling out in advance how those procedures will work — is key. That might mean updating your business’ social media account from a mobile device; setting up automated e-mail, phone call, or text message blasts; or, in the event of massive power outages, even embracing more personal forms of interaction. No matter what, updating customers early and often may mean the difference between bouncing back better than ever or struggling to recover after the disaster.

If you’re still feeling unsure about how to protect your business after reading through this list, contact your local CMIT Solutions office for more information. 

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