Aftereffects of storms can buffet small businesses
The potential problems can reach well beyond storm damage.
By SCOTT BARANCIK
Published April 16, 2006
Hurricanes can be deadly for small businesses. And not just when there's a direct hit.
Many owners aren't prepared for the several weeks it may take their suppliers to resume deliveries, their customers to resume buying, their employees to return to work or their utility companies to restore service.
Here are the five key steps experts recommend to get ready.
1. Check your insurance policy. Is your coverage sufficient? What are your deductibles? Fill any gaps, and keep your policy number and agent's name and phone number in your wallet.
2. Consider business-interruption or hurricane insurance. Such policies typically cover lost profits and added operating expenses you might incur right after a storm. They may enable you to do things you otherwise couldn't, such as maintain payroll. Many policies pay only if there is actual property damage, however.
3. Develop - and follow - a disaster survival plan. What will you do if customers and suppliers are temporarily cut off from you? Could you operate for a while without electricity or phone service? Could you quickly move the business to another site if necessary? These and other questions are addressed by a survival plan. Key safeguards include establishing relationships with back-up suppliers, purchasing a generator and battery-powered surge protector, preserving key documents (paper as well as digital) and equipment, and installing storm shutters or other defenses.
Review the U.S. Small Business Administration's disaster loan programs. And be sure to brief your employees on the plan - both generally, and on specific issues that affect them, such as assistance with family evacuations or paying for post-storm home repairs.
4. Assemble a hurricane supply kit. Much like the one for your home, this kit should include bottled water and an ice chest, a radio and batteries, flashlights, duct tape, a first aid kit and sanitary supplies, canned or other nonperishable food, emergency cooking supplies and utensils, a list of employee phone numbers and alternate contacts, and a camera to document property damage.
5. Make sure your family is prepared, too. Without them, your business means little.
[Last modified April 13, 2006, 16:17:48]
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