Ask Score: Are you prepared for hurricane season?

QUESTION: With hurricane season upon us, do you have any suggestions on how to prepare for a disruption of business due to a storm or other disaster?

ANSWER: Every year many businesses suffer loss due to fire, wind, water and other events. Stop for a moment and think about all the time and resources you've invested in your small business. Imagine that it's all gone — furniture equipment, inventory, records, everything. What do you do?

While we are powerless to prevent some accidents and acts of nature, a proactive disaster management plan can mitigate their effects on your business and help speed your return to normal operations. Here are some tips for developing a disaster management business strategy:

Identify potential hazards — In addition to natural events (hurricanes, floods, etc.), you should consider man-made disasters such as fires, toxic material spills, civil unrest, vandalism and terrorism. Even if your business is not directly affected, such events could disrupt your utilities, logistics, and supply chains.

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

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 a year. Make sure you have several well stocked first aid kits, all fire extinguishers are fully charged, and an available supply of all types of batteries used in your business. Purchase portable generators for emergency power and make sure that the fuel is fresh and safely stored.

Review your business insurance coverage — At a minimum, your coverage should be enough to get your business back in operation at the earliest possible date. It should cover the replacement cost of the building, contents and essential facilities. A major consideration is Business Interruption and Extra Expense insurance that provides coverage for loss of income and other expenses incurred to quickly return to normal operations. Most Business Owner policies do not cover damages from flood or earthquake. However, these coverage's may be purchased separately.

The adage "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is still true today.

Gray Poehler is a volunteer with SCORE Naples. SCORE counselors can assist and offer advice concerning management issues facing your small business. Counseling is provided free to all U.S. citizens and legal aliens. To register call 239-430-0081 or visit http://tinyurl.com/43aqelw.

If you would like an answer to your question, please fill out the form located at http://naples.score.org/mentors. A counselor will contact you within 48 hours. Include your name, email address and a contact phone number.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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