In the face of a disaster, keep one thing in mind: If you can live through it, so can your business - most of the time. But you need to plan ahead.
Sadly, most small and home-based business owners won't do that. It's a tragic way to reduce the competition. But if you choose to prepare for disaster, you'll still BE the competition!
The enhance your chances of still being around, you need to create a disaster preparedness plan. Even something very simple could help greatly. The most important aspects of your plan are to make it practical and easy to maintain.
A good disaster preparedness plan starts with disaster prevention. General prevention is mostly good common sense. Natural catastrophes such as wildfires, major storms and earthquakes can quickly convert your office or facility into a danger zone if you're not prepared. But most of the events that destroy businesses never make the news - things like on-site accidents and small fires that happen somewhere every moment of every day.
Those things are certainly disasters. But there's an even worse disaster that happens later if you aren't ready: the unnecessary demise of your business afterward. That's the disaster that you can prepare for by planning ahead.
Disaster prevention steps
Here are some basic steps for safeguarding your employees and business from unnecessary damage:
1. Pay attention to public warnings. Don't second-guess evacuation orders. Better to err on the side of caution.
2. Establish emergency evacuation procedures.
3. Keep fire extinguishers and first aid kits on hand and check them regularly.
4. Keep a cell phone programmed with emergency contact and employee numbers.
5. Back up your data daily. Keep a copy offsite or in a fire- and waterproof safe.
6. Regularly update your insurance info: equipment, inventory, etc. Keep a copy of this offsite (or in a safe) as well.
7. Look for fall hazards: piled boxes, overhead materials, and so forth. Rearrange to protect yourself and your people from unnecessary harm.
8. Don't let debris, empty containers or recyclable materials pile up.
9. Avoid overstocking flammable items, such as fuel or materials with a rapid flash point (such as loose paper and cardboard).
10. Use appropriate safety containers for flammable items.
11. Establish a firebreak around your facility if possible, and internal firebreaks as well, such as a ten-foot perimeter around propane tanks if you have them.
12. Keep tree branches trimmed back from structures, equipment and inventory.
13. Try to separate equipment, inventory, and storage items in order to mitigate the domino effect of fire spreading to all areas of your business.
These suggestions are just a sample of what you can do to avoid unnecessary damage. Walk through your office or facility and imagine what could happen if it was suddenly hit by a fire or flood. Your common sense will guide you to create a good disaster prevention plan in order to minimize your exposure to devastation.
(For more information on preparing your business for surviving and recovering from disaster, please see the expanded article series at the website listed below. )
(c) 2005 Michael Riley. All rights reserved.
Michael Riley is a freelance business writer and editor specializing in trade press and association publications. His website includes expanded coverage of this topic, as well as information on marketing your small business and improving customer relations. http://www.bymichaelriley.com