National Preparedness Month, celebrated every September, is a great time for small business owners across the country to revisit and adjust their own disaster recovery plans.
Hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, floods, tornados, blizzards or even active shooter situations are all risks companies face throughout the year. In addition to national disasters, businesses are still dealing with changes and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Ready.gov, the theme for National Preparedness Month 2021 is "Prepare to Protect. Preparing for disasters is protecting everyone you love."
Each week of September is dedicated to unique aspects of preparedness, from how to make or update a disaster plan, gather supplies for the kit and communicate the importance of emergency preparedness for your community.
Preparing for Natural Disasters and Emergencies
Every small business should understand how to plan for a disaster, especially since one can strike anywhere, at any time. Certain industries, such as hospitals and medical facilities, can be more affected than others in times of an emergency. It’s vital that the medical community is able to stay up and running for as long as possible following a natural disaster for their current patients, incoming victims and first responders. All small businesses, from retailers to restaurants, should create a disaster recovery plan so all employees know how to react in an emergency.
The Ready campaign, created in 2003 to “empower the American people to prepare for, respond to and mitigate emergencies, including natural and man-made disasters,” states that some of the most common hazards businesses face include:
- Natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes
- Health issues such as widespread and serious illnesses like the flu
- Acts of violence and other human-caused hazards, including accidents
- Technology-related hazards like power outages and equipment failure
National Preparedness Month: Evaluate Your Business Continuity Plan
The good news is there are steps all business owners can take to plan ahead for these risks. Unfortunately, many business owners fail to prepare their organizations to be more resistant to disasters so that they sustain as little damage as possible. AmTrust encourages its policyholders to develop a business continuity plan, which outlines the procedures an organization should adhere to in the event of a major disruption or disaster. Creating, updating, and testing your plan is critical to responding successfully to a natural disaster or other business disruption.
This National Preparedness Month, make sure your organization is ready for an emergency by:
Determining the possible hazards in your region
Different areas of the United States face different types of hazards, especially when it comes to natural disasters. Hurricane season starts as early as May and lasts through November, affecting the Southern states and East Coast. The Northeast and Midwest deal with blizzards and ice storms in the winter months, while the West Coast may encounter wildfires in the summer and fall or earthquakes throughout the year. The summer can also bring additional risks from heat stress to summer storms. All businesses face the risk of a cybersecurity breach, which can impact reputation, brand, customer loyalty and cost thousands of dollars. Understand the main risks your business may face and create your plan accordingly.
Assessing the building’s risk for potential vulnerabilities
Once you understand the hazards your businesses may face, conduct a thorough examination of the interior and exterior of your building to determine its main weaknesses. Take note of where upgrades may be needed structurally based on the types of disasters that pose a real threat in your community.
Safeguard the building as needed
Help reduce damage to the building by making the necessary adjustments. If you’re at risk for flooding due to a hurricane or strong storm, for example, make sure to install dry flood protection materials like floodgates, sandbags or tarps, keep machinery and electronics elevated off the floor, and keep outdoor furniture and signage anchored down or moved inside. If wildfires are a threat, noncombustible siding materials like brick and concrete can help provide protection from flames and radiant heat. In snowy, cold regions, contract with a company for ice and snow removal from the property, but make sure to protect your business from potential liabilities by taking precautions. This includes obtaining Certificates of Insurance for workers’ compensation and liability and automobile insurance, with proper limits of coverage, and keeping them on file.
Publish and post your disaster recovery plan
The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) has created OFBEZ™ (Open for Business-EZ), a free, downloadable business continuity planning toolkit to help you recover, reopen quickly and reduce losses. Creating this plan is the first step in understanding the risks your business may face. Continually reviewing, updating, republishing and distributing the plan will help all employees make quick, informed decisions following a disaster.
Make sure you have adequate businessowners insurance coverage
Part of a disaster recovery plan involves reviewing your current businessowners policy (BOP) to ensure that should something go wrong, you’ll be in the financial position to rebound well. AmTrust’s standard BOP not only includes general liability and commercial property coverage but also business interruption insurance to provide protection from when unforeseen events – like a natural disaster – temporarily disrupt your ability to function as usual.