Small Business Disaster Planning Guide

Has your small business ever been affected by a natural disaster, such as a fire, flood, earthquake or tornado? Even if you’ve remained unscathed until now, severe weather incidents are increasingly affecting all parts of the U.S. From the “polar vortex” on the East Coast to wildfires raging in the Southwest, businesses of all sizes need to be prepared for the worst.

Mother Nature isn’t the only source of disasters, of course. Everything from a burst water pipe or a key supplier’s failure to a flu epidemic or an act of terrorism can put your business at risk of shutting down—either temporarily or permanently. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), between 40 and 60 percent of small businesses never re-open their doors following a disaster.

That’s a frightening number—but your business doesn’t have to become a statistic. Although you can’t control whether a disaster strikes your business, you can control whether and how you prepare for one. By developing a comprehensive disaster plan you can protect critical business data, lessen the financial impact of a disaster on your business and continue to serve clients and customers.

How to Prevent Data and Document Loss and Keep Your Business Operating

Disaster GuideHas your small business ever been affected by a natural disaster, such as a fire, flood, earthquake or tornado? Even if you’ve remained unscathed until now, severe weather incidents are increasingly affecting all parts of the U.S. From the “polar vortex” on the East Coast to wildfires raging in the Southwest, businesses of all sizes need to be prepared for the worst.

Step 1: Identify Risks

Begin by identifying what natural disasters your business and your region is susceptible to. This might include incidents specific to your business, such as a burst pipe that floods your building or a loose wire that ignites a fire, or regional natural disasters such as a flood caused by storms or a wildfire caused by drought conditions. Your insurance agent can work with you to identify the risks that might affect your business and determine which ones are most important to protect against.

Step 2: Identify Key Business Functions

Next, identify which business operations are mission-critical to keeping your business up and running. For example, being able to communicate with customers and ship orders in a timely fashion is a critical business operation; so is paying employees and vendors. However, updating your business’s blog or placing advertisements are not critical.

Step 3: Identify Potential Impact of Disaster

Finally, consider how each type of disaster on your list might affect your critical business operations and your business as a whole. If a fire burned all of your customer records, how would you process orders? If floods kept employees from getting to work, how would you serve clients?

More important, how would these disruptions impact your business as a whole? Negative impacts could include:

  • Lost or delayed sales or income
  • Insufficient cash flow to cover expenses
  • Dissatisfied customers
  • Additional expenses such as outsourcing, hiring temporary employees or paying additional fees to expedite shipments

Your first priority is developing strategies to deal with the disasters that are most likely to occur, affect critical business functions and would have the biggest negative impact. However, your plan should ultimately encompass all the disasters that could potentially affect your business. 

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About the Author

BrotherBrother International is a leading manufacturer of award-winning office technology products for small and mid-sized businesses. Its product line-up includes monochrome and color laser printers and all-in-ones, inkjet all-in-ones, scanners, P-touch label makers and QL label printers. Brother is committed  to providing products that are innovative, reliable and offer outstanding value to help small business owners increase their productivity. Its “At Your Side” philosophy is best exemplified by toll-free tech support for the life of Brother products. For more information about Brother visit www.brother.com.