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by Ron Pettit, MS, The Harry A. Koch Co, Loss Control Specialist

According to the Institute for Businesses and Home Safety, one in four businesses does not reopen after a major disaster. An essential part of your overall workplace emergency plan is a business continuity plan to identify your response and recovery to impacts on your business from potential internal and external threats.

The best time to respond to a disaster is before it happens. Every area in the country is subject to some kind of disaster. Even man-made disasters such as an oil spill, civil unrest, terrorism, etc. can devastate the surrounding neighborhood and economy. Even though an area has never been damaged before, there is no guarantee that it will not happen tomorrow.

Is your current insurance coverage enough to get your business back in operation? Know what your insurance does not cover. Most general casualty policies do not cover flood damage. Many require additional riders for windstorm, sewer backup, or earth movement.

Consider business interruption insurance that assists you with operating needs during a period of shutdown. It may help you meet payrolls, pay vendors, and purchase inventory until you are in full operation again. Also be prepared for the extra costs of a disaster such as leasing temporary equipment, restoring lost data, and hiring temporary workers.

Don’t assume that, just because it never happened before, it never will. Flooding patterns are changed by development: water, which runs off new streets and parking lots, may overwhelm nearby streams. The creek by your building may be a calm stream that has never flooded, but a downpour may change it into a destructive torrent that can destroy your business.

Disaster recovery is the next step. The next priority is to have an organized plan for getting business up and running as soon as possible. The disaster recovery plan should establish a crisis management team, also a primary and alternate locations for committee members to meet after a disaster strikes. The plan should also outline immediate tasks such as: assessing the damage, deciding on an immediate course of action, and organizing and helping employees. From this point forward, the clear goal of the emergency committee should be to get the business operation up and running.

Remember that community emergency workers–police, paramedics, firefighters, will focus on their responsibilities and priorities where the need is greatest. Or they may be victims themselves and unable to respond immediately. That means your facility may be on its own.