A forecast for an active hurricane season is reason for small business owners to think about how well they're prepared -- not just for a major storm, but for any weather that's bad enough to hurt their companies.
Forecasters at Colorado State University have warned that the current Atlantic hurricane season could be even more active than predicted earlier, with a projection now of 15 storms strong enough to be given names. Eight are expected to be hurricanes.
Preparation for hurricanes or other disasters includes having adequate insurance coverage; keeping company information secure; protecting offices, factories and warehouses from wind, rain and flooding and ensuring that employees are safe. Being prepared also means a contingency plan for running a business if its premises are destroyed or inaccessible.
Some parts of preparing for a storm may be obvious, like boarding up windows. But there are a lot of details some business owners might not think of in the anxious hours before a storm, like buying heavy plastic to cover furniture, equipment and inventory. Owners can get some help from online resources, including the Small Business Administration, which co-sponsors the website www.preparemybusiness.org.
A look at some of the basics:
--Insurance: Many companies don't have enough insurance, either in terms of what's covered, or how much the insurer will reimburse for damage. Many don't have flood insurance, which must be purchased separately from standard business policies. Company owners need to honestly assess what their needs are. They also need to be sure they have enough of the coverage known as business interruption insurance. This coverage reimburses a business for income it loses when it's unable to operate because of severe weather, fire or other disaster. Among other things, it covers lost profits, operating expenses and temporary relocation costs.
--Protecting premises: Owners should board up windows, move equipment and furniture off the floor and away from windows if possible, cover everything with heavy plastic and unplug electrical equipment.
--Securing data: The best way to be sure company information including financial ledgers, customer and vendor information and product details is safe is to contract with an online storage service; ideally, it will be a secure service that will also help protect from data loss following a cyberattack. Paper records should be scanned and stored electronically or removed to a safe location. Owners and employees should take laptops with them, as well as any other computer equipment that can be removed.
--Employees: Owners should be sure employees will be safe, and that everyone in the company is able to contact one another. Owners should ask staffers where they'll be waiting out the storm.
--What ifs: Arranging in advance for cleanup and rebuilding help and temporary offices can save a business some recovery time. Owners should carry with them phone numbers of their insurance agents, customers, vendors, even competitors -- anyone who might be able to help if a storm shuts a company down.
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