Top Five Disaster Preparedness Tips for Businesses

Posted on July 27, 2011 by Michael Corley

By: Nancy Henry, The Patterson Foundation

Since Disaster Relief from a high-level, systemic point of view is one of The Patterson Foundation’s initiatives, we felt it worthwhile to share what we've learned about the importance of disaster preparedness -- especially because we reside in a coastal community and are well into hurricane season (June to October).

The 2011 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) hurricane outlook indicated an “above normal” Atlantic season (which includes the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea).

If you were given a 36-hour warning that a Category 2, 3 or 4 hurricane was destined for your area, what would you do?

Is your business and are your employees prepared to handle this emergency?

Do you have a plan?

After attending a recent disaster preparedness webinar, "Sarasota County Evacuation Zones for Businesses" by Ed McCrane, emergency management chief at Sarasota County Emergency Operations Center (EOC), I learned that not only do you have to prepare for high winds during a hurricane, but also for the storm surge (flooding) often preceded by hurricanes that can be pushed miles inland.

Here are my top five take-aways that I’d like to share:

  • Server back-ups off-site or on cloud servers, with remote availability - What if your server, computers and hard-copy files were damaged or destroyed by flooding? Could your employees access their email and soft copy files working remotely from home?
  • Know your Evacuation Zone –  Also be aware of  your local shelter locations. Continuously monitor weather services for weather updates, as well as road and area closures. We highly recommend buying a NOAA weather radio (and don’t forget extra batteries!)
  • Review and train employees - It's important for your team to know their responsibilities and tasks in preparing for a disaster, ie. retrieval of first aid kit, relocate portable equipment and files to safe areas off the floor, shutting doors, removing pictures off walls, lower blinds and curtains, turn off power on equipment. Check with your property management company on what their emergency procedures are for your building.
  • Keeping Contact - Prepare a “Redbook” of contact names, emails, address, telephone numbers for employees, emergency contacts for employees, as well as contact info for property manager, contractors, vendors. Also record account numbers, usernames, passwords. Keep a copy off-site.
  • Wind and Flood Insurance - Are you adequately insured, especially for the geographical location of your business? Check with your local insurance agent on coverage.

Most importantly, in addition to ensuring your employees are safe and your business suffers as little downtime as possible, also prepare your home and family, including pets, for disasters.

For those disasters that have little or no warning, preparation makes all the difference in your recovery. This is our short-list – have you experienced a hurricane and would like to share your own tips?

Links to helpful resources:

2011 Hurricane Guide

Sarasota County website

Florida Disaster Plans (home or business)

Follow @NHC_Atlantic on Twitter for warnings of hazardous tropical weather



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