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Katrina-Proof Your Business

Here are some easy-to-follow suggestions to avoid business loss if Mother Nature goes wild.

By Maggie Leyes

You spend your days ensuring your clients are prepared for the worst, but can you say the same about yourself?

I’m not talking about having adequate life insurance. This is about one of your most valuable assets: your business. Are you prepared should you wake up one morning to news that the nearby river has flooded the commercial area where your office is located, or that a tornado has ripped through your office park? What if you walk into your business and see that a water pipe has frozen and burst?

The Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) and the Small Business Administration have put together Open for Business: A Disaster Planning Toolkit for the Small Business Owner, an invaluable guide for getting your business prepared. (It’s available for free at This publication provides background information on the disasters that could strike the area where you live, and how to protect your business and employees from them—or at least minimize their impact and aftereffects.

Insure it
It would be a great irony if your business was forced to close because you hadn’t adequately ensured its survival should a disaster strike. While it’s logical that you have your property and casualty policy up-to-date, business continuity in a post-disaster scenario involves a lot more than fixing a building and replacing its contents. A large-scale catastrophe may also mean that your clients are unable to do business with you. So make sure you also have a business-interruption policy in place. Don’t let this be a case of the cobbler’s son going unshod. Consider where your business would be if you were unable to work with clients for a month—or more.


Protecting information
IBHS estimates that a quarter of all businesses shut down by natural disasters never reopen. And while your business does not carry inventory that could be destroyed, it does house your most valuable asset—client information—stored in large part on your computers. Make backups of all your files—with strict regularity—and keep them in a safe off-site location. According to the Disaster Planning Toolkit, that location should be at least 50 miles away from your office. If you are unsure of the best way to go about this, now would be a good time to hire a computer consultant to help you implement a backup system for your computers, if you don’t have one in place, and help you choose an appropriate place for off-site storage. It is also wise to keep an up-to-date list, with licenses, of all your computer hardware and software. This will ensure that you can get those replaced or repaired quickly.

Something to think about

As you plan your strategy for protecting your business from disaster, there are a few questions to consider:

  • How will a disaster affect your employees’ ability to return to work and clients’ ability to see you at work?
  • What impact would a natural disaster have on the physical plant—your building and offices?
  • Where would you go if you were forced to relocate temporarily?
  • What records are indispensable to your business’ continuation?
  • Natural disasters do not happen just to other people and other businesses.
  • Don’t be left without a plan, or you may be left without a business.
Here are some suggestions from the Disaster Planning Toolkit:
  • Install surge protectors and an uninterruptible power-supply device for your computers in case of a power outage.
  • Arrange for off-site storage of all your computer backups, located at least 50 miles from your office.
  • Keep your lease, insurance policies and other important papers in a secure location.
  • Post an updated list of emergency telephone numbers.
  • Make sure you talk to your employees about your emergency plans.
  • Have a disaster kit on hand that contains items such as a first-aid kit, flashlights and batteries, and a small supply of bottled water and nonperishable food.
  • Make sure you and your employees know how to turn off the utilities in your building.
  • Establish how you can contact employees if there is no phone service.


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