Disaster Preparedness – Is Your Business Ready?

Floods. Landslides. Wildfires. Every week we hear about a new natural disaster. We humans make disasters too: data hacks, power outages, and even mass shootings. If you own a small business, planning ahead will help you recover if the worst ever happens.

The impact

There is another side that gets less coverage: The effect these disasters have on small businesses. The economic impact is huge. How huge? The Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council reports that businesses with woman as majority or joint owners created $453 Billion in payroll and $2 Trillion in sales.  That doesn’t count the impact on owners, employees, and customers of these businesses.

Natural disasters can destroy businesses just like they destroy homes. When Hurricane Florence hit the Carolinas in 2018, it destroyed everything from bars to sporting goods stores. The statistics are sobering:  40 % of businesses hit by a natural disaster never reopen. Another 25% do reopen but then close within 1 year.

Disaster plan

Have a disaster plan for yourself and any employees. Whether the disaster hits during business hours or not, you should all know how to reach one another, where the nearest shelter is and how to get there. No business can run without its employees. Be ready to help yours when the worst happens.

Start with a publicly available disaster plan, then adapt it for your business’s specific needs. If you run  pet daycare, have a plan for re-uniting your guests with their owners, or caring for them if reunions aren’t possible.  If you run a restaurant, have a plan for backup generators to keep food safe. Website designer? You need plans for data storage, power generation and wifi.

Disasters can happen anywhere, at any time. Prepare ahead to reduce your risks.

Data protection

Every business needs data to run. Have a plan for accessing your data remotely. Saving to the Cloud is a practical, inexpensive way for many businesses to do this.  Backup your financial records, important business documents like your licenses and insurance papers, and customer and supplier contact information. That will get you up and running again faster when the acute phase of the disaster has passed. The sooner your all get back to work, the better it is for you, your employees and your customers.


Know what your insurance policy covers, and how to reach your insurance provider in a disaster. Keep your insurance contract backed up so you can access it remotely.  When you buy insurance, think about the disasters that are likely to happen in your area. Get coverage for them if you can. Insurance is there to help you beat the odds against restarting your business after a disaster. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish; this is not a place to scrimp.

Community Connections

Familiarize yourself with your community support services, like Community Emergency Response Teams, the local Red Cross, and FEMA. Know what services are available in case of disaster. Think about your particular business. If you run an elder care program you might need additional help. It’s better to know the first responders before you need them.

You may be able to help others: if you are a trained nurse, know CPR, or just have a particularly sturdy building, the Community Response Team will want to know you. Get to know the key people before disaster strikes.

Find Out More

The US Department of Homeland Security’s  www.ready.gov website lists 5 kinds of disasters: wildfires, power outages, hurricanes, floods and active shooters. It’s filled with advice for how to prepare, and what to do if one of these affects you. You might not be at risk of flooding or wildfires, but a power outage can happen anywhere. If you haven’t visited this site yet, do it now.


Marne Platt

Dr. Marne Platt is the President of Fundamental Capabilities and the author of 3 books (so far): Living Singlish: Your Life, Your Way; Professional Presence; and PREP For Success. Originally a practicing veterinarian, she built a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry. She founded Fundamental Capabilities to ‘pay it forward’ by providing career development workshops and coaching for women. ‘Living Singlish: Your Life, Your Way’ is an ‘older sister in your pocket’ packed full of advice for young women on building their own independent and exciting life. 'Professional Presence' and PREP For Success' help you strengthen your spoken and unspoken communication and leadership presence.