A new report makes the case that many small businesses are not prepared for natural disaster.
According to the latest Small Business Index from Office Depot, nearly 70% of small- to medium-sized businesses (SMB) do not have a dedicated disaster preparedness plan to contend with emergencies like hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, fires, landslides, earthquakes and more.
“As we enter the busiest period of hurricane season, now is the time for small businesses across the country to ensure they have an emergency response plan in place or review existing preparedness measures,” said Gerald McSwiggan, disaster manager for the Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC) of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “From battery backup for your desktops and printers to data storage drives, proactive response materials make sure SMBs are properly equipped and ready to weather any storm. We want to make disaster preparedness simple and accessible for all business owners.”
While some natural disasters do not pose a risk for small businesses in Arizona, these employers still can be vulnerable to a wide range of weather-related catastrophes, as well as man-made complications.
One in 3 survey respondents without a disaster preparedness plan said their business doesn’t require one, the index reported. However, with approximately 25% of small businesses closing down following a major disaster, owners may want to consider having a strategy should disaster strike.
Office Depot stated that on a geographical basis, businesses in the South are most prepared to handle natural disaster, with 40% having preparedness plans. However, only 30% of businesses in the Northeast, Midwest and West have plans in place. Meanwhile, more mid-size businesses typically have preparedness plans compared to small businesses.
Covering the basics
For 22% of small businesses, the greatest barrier to creating a disaster preparedness plan is not knowing where to start. One idea is to begin by recognizing what disasters a business is most vulnerable.
For example, flash floods may be a common problem in some parts of Arizona, while wildfires may be a bigger issue in other areas of the state. Business owners may want to consider finding out what problems are most common in their area and then creating a disaster preparedness plan around what issues are most likely to arise. Insurers can help businesses understand potential hazards, while local government agencies also will have information regarding natural disaster risks in the region.
Next, you may want to consider putting an evacuation plan in place for your business. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) recommends employers to have emergency prevention plans in place that clearly outline procedures to all employees. This includes having an exit route available in case of emergencies such as fire. How many exit routes your business may require depends on its size.
Business owners might consider which employees may be most suited to acting as team leaders or safety wardens in such a scenario. Undertaking disaster preparedness education and implementing safety training videos for workers could be an excellent way to ensure all employees know what to do should a serious situation arise.
Arizona businesses also may want to examine their options when it comes to keeping businesses financially secure during a disaster. Tools like natural disaster insurance and business continuity insurance can provide businesses with financial protection at a time when they may need to replace assets, rebuild facilities or keep cash flow steady if they’re forced to shut their doors.