You may have taken steps to protect your personal belongings in case of disaster, but have you ever thought about your business? Disasters that might affect you include: hurricanes, tornadoes, winter weather, storm-related power outages, flooding, and fire.
You are a busy person as a small business owner, but take some time now to prepare your business. If a disaster does affect your business in the future, your business emergency preparedness plan means will not have to waste precious time trying to figure out what to do.
Considerations for Your Business Emergency Preparedness Plan
Here are some things to do address in your small business emergency preparedness plan that will help to protect against disasters:
Create an electronic backup of your important records
Part of your business disaster preparedness plan should be to store the extra file copies away from your originals. Scan or download important records, such as bank statements, tax returns, and insurance policies. Download them on an external drive, burn them to a CD, or store your information in the cloud.
Document your valuables
The IRS has a workbook for documenting your business’s belongings. If there is a disaster, you can use the workbook to calculate your business losses.
Get an insurance plan
Make sure you have adequate insurance for various types of potential disasters. You may want to consider insurance that compensates you for lost income if you have to temporarily close your business.
Invest in a generator
Closing your business even for a short time for a weather-related power outage can cause you to lose profits. To find out what kind of backup generator will work for you, ask an electrician to determine your power needs.
Create an alert system
Establish a system (email, phone, or otherwise) to alert employees and other necessary people about the disaster and your plan of action. Employees should understand and have access to your disaster plan. Make sure employees know their role in the plan. You may also want to test your plan by doing regular drills. This helps both you and your employees know what to do if a disaster actually happens. You may also want to create a plan to notify your customers when you reopen your business.
Talk to your vendors
What is a vendor going to do if disaster strikes? Ask your vendors if they have a business disaster preparedness plan. Also, create relationships with other vendors in case you are unable to use your primary vendors, and keep the backup vendor contact information on file.
Find out if your payroll provider has a fiduciary bond; this protects you in case your payroll provider is impacted by a disaster.
Know your resources
There are many online resources to help you prepare for a disaster. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) provides several articles on emergency preparedness. The SBA has also partnered with Agility Recovery Solutions for a website that provides planning assessments, education resources, and disaster assistance. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) website has information on preparation, recovery, and assistance. FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security also have a disaster preparation website for small businesses.
If disaster strikes
If a natural disaster strikes your area, the IRS may offer you tax relief in the form of more time to make payroll tax deposits or extended deadlines for payroll tax and income tax returns. If you’re a victim of a recent storm, check the IRS website to see what relief is offered to your area, or call 1-866-562-5227 for more information.
The IRS can also help you recover lost tax documents for a fee. File Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return.
You will also want to file any necessary claims with your insurance provider if your business experiences any damage or loss.
Use our simple accounting software to track your vendors, income, and expenses. The software is stored in the cloud, so your information remains safe and accessible if a disaster happens. Try it for free!
This article was updated on 9/17/2015 from the original post 6/8/2011 to include more information.