Volume 3 Number 21
May 22, 2006

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BE PREPARED:  HAVE A STORM PLAN FOR YOUR BUSINESS

A hurricane is just one of many natural disasters that business owners must prepare for.

In creating your business's natural disaster preparedness plan, owners must first conduct a self-assessment of their business. They need to ask themselves such questions as:

1. Have I determined what parts of my business need to be operational as soon as possible following a disaster, and plan how to resume those operations?

2. Do we have a disaster plan in place to help ensure the safety of each staff person until help can arrive?

3. Are we prepared to stay open for business if our suppliers cannot deliver, our markets are inaccessible, or basic needs (e.g. water, sewer, electricity, transportation) are not available?

In creating your business self-assessment questionnaire, talk to your company's financial institution, insurance company and local public officials about continuation of operations planning.

After completing and analyzing your self-assessment, you will be better prepared to create a plan that will allow you to resume essential business operations as soon as possible. You should consider three subjects in building your business continuity plan:

1. Human resources

2. Physical resources

3. Business continuity

Here are several ideas to help you start your plan.

Employee contacts

An employee list, including yourself. Include information such as phone numbers, address and person to contact in case of an emergency.

Communication setup: Create a company phone list and give it to key members of your staff

If you have a voice mail system, designate one remote number on which you can record messages for your employees. Then provide this number to all employees.

Employee transportation after the disaster, how will they get to you? Is there public transportation available?

Employee payroll how will you get their pay to them?

Where can employees find help for housing? food? medical services?

Child care for employee's children.

Suppliers and vendors

This list will be needed to contact your suppliers and vendors with post-disaster information. You should know and have a commitment from alternate suppliers in case your main suppliers are affected as well.

Administration function

This list includes your banks, creditors, insurance companies and accountant.
Emergency phone numbers, such as police, fire and rescue, and utilities.

A list of government agencies and their phone numbers that can help you, such as the Department of Financial Services, county Economic Development Office, FEMA and Red Cross, to name a few.

List time-sensitive functions bills due, insurance claims filing and follow-up, state and federal assistance plans, payroll.

Business function

As owner, you need to decide which parts of your business function are critical to your survival and outline the details of each function. You will need to prioritize these functions into high, medium or low. Example: If the holder of office keys and alarm codes cannot get to the company, is there a backup person with this information?
Recovery Location

Who will make the decision to move to a prearranged site, such as another branch office, pre-contracted location. Who is in charge of the setup process? Do they have funds available to purchase supplies and equipment as needed?

Conclusion

This is not a comprehensive list. Communication and computers, for instance, were not addressed due to space constraints.

Every business, like your home, requires a disaster toolbox for stocking items that will be needed in an emergency. These should include a NOAA Weather alert radio, AM/FM radio, first-aid kits, flashlights, bottled water, nonperishable food, paper supplies, blankets, camera(s) and cash.

Once you have completed your plan, remember to store it in a safe environment.

The Florida Department of Financial Services provides hurricane information on our Web site, www.MyFloridaCFO.com.

Whenever a tropical storm or hurricane takes aim at our state, Florida's chief financial officer, Tom Gallagher, activates a special consumer help line through which you can seek assistance on any insurance matter. The number is 1-800-22-STORM (1-800-227-8676).