5 Disaster Preparedness Tips For Small Businesses

Natural disasters are a fairly commonplace occurrence throughout the United States, a consequence of it being such a huge country. While most of us will statistically live our whole lives without being directly harmed by a natural disaster, it’s always prudent to be prepared for one.

Hopefully, your home is probably more or less prepped to stand up to most natural disasters that would likely hit your area.  However, businesses are also directly affected by natural disasters and need to prepare a bit differently. Before we get into that, here’s an infographic on the financial costs of catastrophe:

The Cost of Catastrophe


5 Disaster Preparedness Tips For Small Business

Insurance money will not save a life already lost, nor would it resurrect data that’s up and died. Nor will it adequately cover the psychological anguish that comes from any serious loss. Here’s a few disaster preparedness tips you should try.

5) Back up critical data regularly

There are now hundreds of data protection options and services on the cloud. If you currently have the bandwidth to make using these practical, you might want to consider storing critical data there. That is if you already fully understand the security issues that come with it. If you don’t want to use the cloud, hard drives and computer memory space are now cheaper than it ever has been. There really is no excuse.

Hard Disk: barnoid via photopin cc

Make sure to back up data at regular times. The frequency of these (monthly, weekly etc.) will of course depend on the nature of your business. Just pick a regular time that doesn’t disrupt the normal flow of your business and stick with it. You won’t regret it.

Older businesses may also want to back up physical documents electronically to ensure better security. All important physical documents should also be stored in a fire-proof safe.

4) Make sure your business location is up to code

You local building code will ideally make provisions for natural disasters that are likely to occur in your area. If you’re about to rent a site for your business, be sure that it is at least up to code or better. Make sure any buildings or improvements you make to your business space comply with local laws.

Law Books: umjanedoan via photopin cc

3) Hold regular drills

These should ideally be a bit more than once yearly. If your business experiences significant employee turnover, you may want to hold these fairly frequently to account for people who would not otherwise have participated in earlier drills.

2) Build a disaster-preparedness kit for your business

FEMA recommends disaster-preparedness kits have sufficient supplies for each person for 72 hours – this includes food, water, and important medical supplies. Power and communications may be down in a big disaster, so it’s always a good idea to have a portable radio -and batteries -as well.

Here is a good exhaustive list of things you may want to include in a disaster-preparedness kit.

Disaster Preparedness Kit: srqpix via photopin cc

1) Visit the Small Business Administration and Federal Emergency Management websites

The SBA and FEMA have loads of time-tested preparedness tips specific to different kinds of disasters. The SBA has a more relevant list of disaster preparation tips for business. They also have plenty of information on how to get post-disaster assistance in case your business is hit by a natural disaster. Check out this video for a brief overview of the SBA’s disaster recovery assistance program.

Costs of an Unmentioned Disaster

The infographic only covered natural disasters in terms of financial losses incurred. However, it’s interesting to note that none of the natural disasters presented are the absolute deadliest in terms of American lives lost. While hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes make for rather dramatic events that destroy billions of dollars’ worth of property in a matter of hours, heat waves are by far the deadliest natural disaster in American History.

 Hot Sun: pranav via photopin cc

Apart from damage to agriculture and overloaded power lines, heat waves are unlikely to cause much damage to physical property and businesses. However, they can be fatal for the sick and the elderly, especially those who lack air conditioning or live in crime-prone areas (people are less likely to open windows). The 1995 Chicago Heat Wave resulted in at least 700 deaths over the weekly average in Chicago alone. More recently, the 2012 North American Summer Heat Wave was the deadliest natural disaster in the United States for 2012, edging out Hurricane Sandy for US fatalities, and much deadlier than other disasters that made the news.

Scenes from the 1995 Chicago Heat Wave – Chicago Tribune

Excessive heat can also leave employees unable to perform at their best. If your business has a dress code, you may consider relaxing it to prevent employees from being uncomfortable at work. Check  electrical systems before any disaster to reduce the risk of an electrical fire from overloading. If your neighborhood is hit by a heat wave, you may want to check up on any sick employees and any elderly or infirm in the immediate area.

Food For Thought

If you personally believe Global Warming is real and is causing the marked increase in natural disasters, it’s best to have your business invest in technologies that reduce CO2 emissions- do your part to reduce the frequency of these events. If you don’t believe in it, hopefully we can all agree on these two things:

2.) It always helps to be prepared in case of disaster.

1.) Helping your community in times of need is not optional – it’s something we must do as human beings.

Sources and Additional Reading

FEMA Disaster Grid

FEMA Personal Preparedness Survey

411 Small Biz Facts Poll

SAGE Small Business Preparedness Study – Sage North America

Catastrophe Insights  – AON Benfield

Swamp Computing a.k.a. Cloud Computing”. Web Security Journal. 2009-12-28. Retrieved 2010-01-25.

Winkler, Vic. “Cloud Computing: Virtual Cloud Security Concerns”. Technet Magazine, Microsoft. Retrieved 12 February 2012.

Hickey, Kathleen. “Dark Cloud: Study finds security risks in virtualization”. Government Security News. Retrieved 12 February 2012.

Winkler, Vic (2011). Securing the Cloud: Cloud Computer Security Techniques and Tactics. Waltham, MA USA: Elsevier. p. 59. ISBN 978-1-59749-592-9.

Burt, Christopher. “The Amazing June Heat Wave of 2012. Part 1: The West and Plains June 23-27”. wunderground.com. Retrieved 26 July 2012.

“Heat Index”. US National Weather Service.

“NASA Maps Heat Wave Fueling Wildfires in the Rockies”. NASA. Retrieved 2012-07-07.

2009 Ends Warmest Decade on RecordNASA Earth Observatory Image of the Day, 22 January 2010.

America’s Climate Choices. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. 2011. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-309-14585-5. “The average temperature of the Earth’s surface increased by about 1.4 °F (0.8 °C) over the past 100 years, with about 1.0 °F (0.6 °C) of this warming occurring over just the past three decades”

“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level.” IPCC, Synthesis ReportSection 1.1: Observations of climate change, inIPCC AR4 SYR 2007.

Image Credits

Hard Disk: barnoid via photopin cc

Law Books: umjanedoan via photopin cc

Disaster Preparedness Kit: srqpix via photopin cc

Hot Sun:  pranav via photopin cc

Author Bio

profileArthur Piccio is one of PrintRunner Blog’s resident Admins. He is also the head writer for The Art of Small Business. His work has been featured on New York Times’ You’re The Boss Small Business Blog, Bizsugar, SmallBiz Trends, and other small business and printing-oriented online publications.


About the Author

PrintRunner offers online printing service based in Van Nuys, California. They specialize in supplying discerning clients with superior print stickers, business cards, posters, postcards, and other products at affordable rates. Get a FREE copy of their sample kit now and see for yourself.

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