Preparing Your Business for Disaster

It’ll Never Happen to You

So you’re a business owner or consummate professional and it’s taken you years to acquire assets, profitable sales relationships with customers, and other intangibles (i.e. processes), and grow your business to a certain level of success. Although you might actually think, or subliminally dismiss the notion with, “It’ll never happen to me,” your business achievement can all be wiped out with one disaster, small or large; albeit act of nature, malice intent, electrical or otherwise.

Forty to sixty percent of small businesses never reopen their doors following a disaster. Furthermore, ninety percent of companies fail within a year unless they can resume operations within five days. Therefore, being informed, prepared and ready for a disaster could very hedge your risk for staying in business through any interruption while minimizing data loss, recovery time and potential expense incurred.

Kinds (and Severity) of Disaster

There are several types of disasters that can severely disable your business and/or work flow that you should be prepared for. These may include: earthquake, fire, electrical or other utility outage, hurricane or other severe storm, hazardous spills, server failure, act of terrorism, and cyber terrorism/hacking. The recovery time and expense of the recovery is not always relative to the severity of the disaster. For example, if you’ve ever had an irreparable hard drive failure without a backup (I hope you don’t know what I’m speaking of…) you understand. Just the time in trying to retrieve lost data can be debilitating. Preparing for the worst is important but in disaster response and preparedness it’s important to not lose site of the day-to-day (disaster) challenges that can arise.

Business Disaster Preparedness Suggestions

What can you do better prepare for a business disaster? Here are a few suggestions that give various perspectives on different types of business disasters.

  1. suggests the importance of testing as a critical component for business continuity planning. If your systems went down, how long would it take to get them up and running again, and what would be required to achieve that goal? Where are the gaps in your recovery plan and how can you close those gaps before a disaster strikes? They suggest testing all PCs, servers, security, phone and other communications and supply chain, and workflow/staff procedures as well as business critical functions like electricity, water, gas, etc. at least once a year.
  2. The American Red Cross offers the following:
    Build a plan. The plan should have clearly defined processes and procedures to quickly move employees to action.
    Compile supply kits. As part of planning, stage emergency kits with the basic supplies needed in the event of a disaster to keep employees warm, dry and hydrated, as well as supplies to treat minor injuries. Examples include hand sanitizer, water, hand warmers and a blanket.
    Prepare employees. While preparing your business is important, any emergency planning first starts with personal preparedness. In addition to First Aid and CPR/AED training, the American Red Cross provides a variety of resources to help individuals prepare themselves, their homes and their families.
    Establish partners. Establish local partnerships that include key organizations such as police, fire, Red Cross, FEMA, utilities, skilled trades and local emergency planning officials. These relationships will help create a network of preparedness in your community.
    Practice the plan. Simply having a plan is not enough. Create venues for employees to test the plan by holding mock drills and emergency simulations.
    Seek Out Free Resources. Many free emergency planning resources are available to businesses. The Red Cross Ready Rating Program, for example, provides a free, self-guided curriculum designed to help businesses, organizations and schools become better prepared for emergencies. FEMA also offers resources at
  3. The San Francisco Small Business Commission suggests that effective business emergency/disaster planning includes these critical activities:
    Identify and assess vulnerabilities and capabilities
    Develop plans for emergency response, business resumption and relocation
    Assemble emergency supplies and response kits
    Exercise your plans
    Educate and train your staff in emergency preparedness and response
    Back up data and copy important records, and arrange for offsite storage
    Review insurance coverage
    Participate in the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) program
  4. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) encourages businesses to safeguard against natural disasters by taking a few simple steps.
    Create an Electronic Set of Backup Records in a safe place (away from the original set) including bank statements, tax returns, insurance policies, etc. Many financial institutions provide statements and documents electronically, so be sure you know how to easily access them when and if you need them.
    Document Valuables. Photograph or videotape the contents of your business in the case of lost items due to a disaster.
    Update Emergency Plans. Emergency and disaster plans should be reviewed annually.  Personal and business situations change over time.
    Check on Fiduciary Bonds. Employers who use a payroll service should make sure the provider has a fiduciary bond in place.  The bond could protect the employer in the event of default by the payroll service provider.

My Thoughts…

No matter what disaster or response, it’s pretty clear that giving preparedness some thought and putting together a plan makes good sense to avoid a calamity. If you don’t have any disaster preparedness plan in place, I suggest first starting by backing up your business data (customer/supplier/stakeholder contacts, important business documents, financials/”the books”, ordering systems, intellectual property, etc.). Consider cloud based systems and/or an external hard drive kept in a location other than where your business is. I have a Mac and use an external hard drive an application called Time Machine which backs up all data by date and can restore your system to that date for easy retrieval. With regards to preparing for physical disaster while at work, consider assigning an individual employee or committee to develop, exercise and implement a disaster preparedness plan. Revisit insurance and accounting systems you have in place and play out various scenarios to know your threshold of risk management and assessment. A few minutes of preparedness could save years of business loss.


  2. EHS Today “Be Ready: Preparing Your Business for a Disaster. Sep 13, 2011 9:51 AM, By Laura Walter
  3. 4 Steps to Prepare Your Business for Disaster. Posted by Nancy Mullin on Tue, Jun 07, 2011

About the Author

Angelo Biasi is General Manager of SMART Marketing Solutions, LLC, a leading full-service integrated marketing company in Florida and New York since 2001. He has helped create and execute marketing plans and integrated marketing solutions for companies such as Playtex, Bic, Rogaine, Tauck, and over 35 colleges and universities, to name a few. Angelo has an MBA in Marketing from the University of Connecticut and teaches Marketing at New York University where he has for over six years. He has been quoted and/or featured in USA Today, Mobile Marketer magazine, Mobile Commerce Daily, Luxury Marketing magazine, BNET TV and Business Currents magazine, to name a few. For more information or to learn more, email him at abiasiatsmartmarketingllcdotcom  (abiasiatsmartmarketingllcdotcom)  , visit, call him at 239.963.9396 and follow him on Twitter @angbiasi.




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