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How to Create a Disaster Plan for Your Small Business

WASHINGTON, June 20, 2023 – Think about all the time and resources you have invested in your small business. Imagine that it’s all gone: furniture, equipment, inventory, records, everything. What would you do?

“There will be problems flying at you from all directions,” said SCORE client Mark Debner, whose Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based business DPI Quality Custom Finishes was hit hard by flooding in 2008 and the Midwest derecho of 2020. “You will be making quick decisions while under great pressure.  Do not beat yourself up if you make a few bad mistakes as you recover.”

SCORE clients Shannon (pictured) and Mark Debner own DPI Quality Custom Finishes, a painting and finishing contractor that was damaged by the Iowa flood of 2008.

While you can’t prevent natural disasters, a proactive disaster management plan can mitigate the effects on your business and help speed your return to normal operations. This National Safety Month, consider these tips for developing a strategy:

Develop an operational contingency plan
Assess the feasibility of operating out of nearby rented office or warehouse space, or even your home. Perhaps a mutual agreement with a friendly competitor to share space and other facilities is worth considering. Determine what equipment and other resources will be needed to continue operations. Important documents, backup copies of computer records, and other vital information should be stored at a secure off-site location or in the cloud.

SCORE client Jennifer Megliore felt the impact of Hurricane Matthew on her art retail business, ArtWare, on Hilton Head Island, S.C. in 2016. “My SCORE mentor encouraged me to have a hurricane plan, being feet away from the water,” said Megliore. “He helped me create a laminated checklist of items and equipment to remove if we had to evacuate. SCORE also encouraged me to set aside contingency money that would help bridge a closure. Insurance can help -- but it can take a long time to receive the money to keep going.”

Ensure the safety of employees and customers
Develop an evacuation plan that includes access to shelters, hospitals and other emergency services. Keep emergency telephone numbers clearly posted, and maintain up-to-date emergency contact and essential medical information for all employees.

Perform a safety inventory
Regularly clean and test smoke detectors, changing the batteries at least once each year. Make sure you have several well-stocked first-aid kits and that all fire extinguishers are fully charged. Keep a supply of all types of batteries used in your business, and consider purchasing a portable generator for emergency power, with fuel safely stored.

Review your business insurance coverage
Your coverage should be enough to get your business back in operation at the earliest possible date. It should cover the replacement cost of buildings, contents and essential facilities. Special coverage may be needed to cover computer hardware, software and stored data. A major consideration is business interruption and extra expense coverage for loss of income and other expenses incurred to quickly return to normal operations. A qualified, professional commercial insurance agent can prove to be a valuable resource in crafting a disaster management plan for your business.

SCORE can help you prepare
“It is critical that individuals and businesses take this seriously and prepare accordingly as we approach the beginning of the 2023 hurricane season,” said SCORE Richmond mentor Gray Poehler.

A SCORE mentor can assist you in considering potential risks and drafting a disaster plan. Find a mentor today and visit SCORE’s resilience hub for more resources.

About SCORE:

Since 1964, SCORE has helped more than 11 million entrepreneurs start, grow or successfully exit a business. SCORE's 10,000 volunteers provide free, expert mentoring, resources and education in all 50 U.S. states and territories. Visit SCORE at www.score.org.

Funded [in part] through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.

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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.

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