Miss. Businesses Reminded to Prepare for Disaster

January 30, 2006

Restoring business is an important part of Mississippi’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

Businesses that planned for disaster before the storm have less damage, loss and down time than those that did not. It’s a good reason, say federal and state officials, to include disaster preparations in the normal course of business planning.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) endorse disaster readiness for businesses not only as a means to reduce damage and loss but also as a way to help a community recover after a disaster.

“Small businesses can take the lead in the Mississippi recovery,” said Robert Latham, director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. “Open businesses not only serve as engines of recovery, they also help to restore a sense of community normalcy.”

Businesses should consider several elements in preparing for a disaster. Not only is it important to protect the staff, building, data, and inventory of a company during a damaging event, it is also critical to prepare a plan to continue operations after most everything is destroyed. A good plan may include provisions to relocate to a pre-identified site, retrieve data, including employee, customer and vendor records, and a way to operate efficiently with a smaller staff of key individuals.

“One of the biggest problems businesses face in the aftermath of a natural disaster like this is a diminished workforce,” said Nick Russo, federal coordinating officer for the Mississippi disaster. “Unless it’s a ‘mom and pop’ operation, businesses can’t operate without a staff. Good planning could help avoid this problem.”

There are Internet resources available to help with disaster planning for businesses.

FEMA provides a step-by-step approach to emergency planning, response and recovery for companies of all sizes in its Emergency Management Guide for Business and Industry in the library at www.fema.gov.

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Web site offers disaster preparation tips and a list of topics business owners should consider in planning.

The Institute for Business and Home Safety, developed the Open for Business Toolkit, which provides the means to develop both property protection and business continuity plans, for small business owners.

An important part of any business plan should be insurance to cover loss and damage, if it occurs, and under what conditions, such as flooding, wind or earthquake, it will be paid. A good Internet resource for business insurance information is the Insurance Information Institute.

“One of the benchmarks of a community’s recovery after a disaster is the number of businesses back in operation,” said Nick Russo. “Those that prepare an effective disaster plan-and that includes a plan to continue operations in the aftermath of widespread destruction-will be able to contribute the most to a community’s recovery.”

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