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Viewpoint: No Better Time than the Present to Prepare for Disaster

By Bernard J. Paprocki

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SMALL BIZ FOCUS

Bernard J. Paprocki

As this year’s hurricane season continues, small-business owners across upstate New York are urged to start preparing for emergencies. September is National Preparedness Month, and this year’s theme is “Disasters Happen. Prepare Now. Learn How.” So when and how should a small-business owner prepare?

The best time for a small-business owner to respond to a disaster is before it happens. A relatively small investment of time and money now may prevent severe damage and disruption of life and business in the future. All small businesses in every area in the country are subject to some kind of disaster — flood, hurricane, earthquake, ice storm, and landslide, to name a few. Even man-made disasters — oil spill, terrorist attack, fire — can devastate the surrounding neighborhood and economy.

Even though an area has never been damaged before, there is no guarantee that it will not happen tomorrow. With proper planning, small-business owners will increase the likelihood of the survival of their businesses, and they’ll be able to rebuild, recover, and get back to business sooner.

Here are just a few tips that small-business owners should follow:

  • Protecting critical records by making backup copies and storing those records in a secure location offsite will save time and money.
  • Meet with an insurance agent to make sure you understand what is covered. Consider buying business-interruption insurance, which covers lost profits and necessary expenses while the firm can’t operate.
  • Take a look at the building where you do business, and identify the risks based on your geographic area. For example, business owners near sources of water can install sump pumps to minimize damage, as well as moving or protecting machinery and equipment that is vital to business resumption.
  • A business-resumption plan is also critical to minimizing the time your business may be closed. Is it possible to resume business in a temporary location? Addressing these and other questions, as well as taking action, will make a big difference.

Without a disaster-preparedness plan in place, small-business owners risk losing everything they have worked hard to accomplish. I encourage upstate New York small-business owners to take advantage of the resources available on the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) website (https://www.sba.gov/business-guide) in the Manage Your Business section. The site provides disaster-preparedness checklists and tips, and links to other sites with information on protecting your home and business. After a disaster has been declared, the SBA provides disaster-recovery assistance in the form of low-interest loans to homeowners, renters, private nonprofits, and businesses of all sizes. To learn more, visit www.sba.gov/disaster.

Small-business owners are also encouraged to visit https://www.ready.gov, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s website for home and business disaster planning. As part of National Preparedness Month, on Thursday, Sept. 27, SBA, FEMA, and the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) will co-host a free webinar focusing on effective business-continuity planning. To sign up for the webinar, visit: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/3468715487197848321.

America’s businesses are the backbone of the nation’s economy and unfortunately an estimated 25 percent of businesses don’t open again after a major disaster, according to the IBHS. With this staggering statistic, it is clear that now is the time to create a disaster-preparedness plan.

Bernard J. Paprocki is district director for the SBA’s Syracuse district office. He is responsible for the delivery of SBA’s financial programs and business-development services for a 34-county region in upstate New York.