Protecting your business

By Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council
Published May 29, 2005

Last hurricane season's overall damage was estimated at $21.47-billion, and about 24 percent of that, $5.18-billion, was commercial losses. It is estimated that 25 percent to 40 percent of businesses experiencing a disaster never recover. A major hurricane striking the Tampa Bay area would result in severe losses. Use the following checklist to prepare a business disaster recovery plan:

KNOW YOUR RISK. Check your hurricane evacuation level and FEMA flood maps to determine whether your business location is vulnerable to storm surge or freshwater flooding. Have your building(s) inspected by a licensed professional to find out whether your workplace is vulnerable to hurricane force winds and what is recommended to retrofit.

TAKE THE NECESSARY PRECAUTIONS. If a storm threatens, secure your building. Cover windows. Cover and move equipment and furniture to a secured area. The Small Business Administration has low-interest loan programs available to help businesses purchase generators, window protection and other emergency supplies. Go to www.sba.gov/disaster or call your local SBA office.

ALWAYS PROTECT YOUR DATA WITH BACKUP FILES. If dependent on data processing, consider an alternate site. Make provisions for alternate communications and power.

PLAN AHEAD: Make plans to work with limited cash and no water, sewer or power for two weeks. Store emergency supplies at the office.

PROTECT YOUR EMPLOYEES. Employee safety comes first. Prepare, distribute and exercise your business hurricane plan for recovery. Consider providing shelter to employees and their families and helping employees with supplies after the storm. Establish a rendezvous point and time for employees in case damage is severe and communications are disrupted. Establish a call-down procedure for warning and post-storm communications. Provide photo IDs and a letter of authorization to enter the building.

CONTACT YOUR CUSTOMERS AND SUPPLIERS. Share your communications and recovery plan in advance. Prepare a list of vendors to provide disaster recovery services.

REVIEW YOUR INSURANCE COVERAGE. Have your business appraised at least every five years. Inventory, document and photograph equipment, supplies and workplace. Have copies of insurance policies and customer service and home numbers. Obtain business interruption insurance. Consider accounts receivable and valuable papers coverage and income destruction insurance. If you have Business Owners Protection Package, check co-insurance provisions. Remember: Flood damage requires separate coverage and is not covered under other insurance programs. Also, business interruption caused by power outage is not covered under most policies.

AFTER THE STORM. Use caution before entering your business. Check for power lines, gas leaks and structural damage. If any electrical equipment is wet, contact an electrician. Prepare loss information for insurance claims and get independent estimates of damages. Take pictures before cleanup. Minimize additional damage.

The Florida Business Disaster Survival Kit, an interactive CD-ROM, is now available to assist businesses prepare for a disaster whether it is a hurricane, fire or power outage. To obtain your copy, contact your local chamber of commerce or go online to www.fldisasterkit.com For more information, go to www.sba.gov/disaster