There are several key steps small business owners should take to recover from Hurricanes Katrina, Ophelia or any other major disaster, according to the Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS).
* Put safety first. The safety of people and property are key considerations following a disaster. Buildings must be safe before employees and customers re-enter. Report downed power lines or gas leaks as soon as possible.
* If you own a building, have it inspected by structural engineers or contractors to determine its safety and the extent of the damage.
* If you do not own the building your business occupies, work with the owner to have it inspected. You are responsible for the safety of anyone on your businesses’ premises.
* If the building is unstable, find an alternative location to work from.
* Report the loss. Call your insurance agent or insurer as soon as you can. Provide a general description of the damage, and if possible, have your policy number handy.
* Assess damages. Note damages caused to the structure, equipment and property, including product inventory and raw materials.
* Make repairs. Avoid additional property damage by making temporary repairs to the building, boarding up windows, or covering holes in the roof. You may also want to partition the building if some areas are not usable.
* Clean up. Your insurance company may tell you to hire a professional cleaning service. If you or your employees are involved in this effort, use proper eyewear, gloves, hardhats and masks. Sanitation systems within the facility should be repaired immediately.
Business owners who need to create business continuity and disaster plans, whether impacted by the hurricane or not, can use Open for Business(sm), a new toolkit offered by IBHS to help organize critical information, records and resources.
Open for Business(sm) can be downloaded from the IBHS Web site http://www.disastersafety.org . Free single copies are available by calling toll free 1 (866) 657-4247 or by writing firstname.lastname@example.org .
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