Spring season is approaching, which often brings severe weather including thunderstorms, tornadoes and flooding. It is important to be prepared—including at your place of business—because natural disasters can happen suddenly with little or no warning.
The loss of essential records, files, and other materials during a disaster is commonplace and cannot only add to your damage costs but also delay your return to normal operations. The longer your business is not operating, the more likely you are to lose customers permanently to your competitors.
The following precautionary steps, recommended by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), can help you take action to protect your company in the event of a natural disaster.
Protecting Company Documents and Equipment
To reduce your vulnerability, determine which records, files, and materials are most important; consider their vulnerability to damage during different types of disasters (such as floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes) and take steps to protect them, including the following:
- Raising computers above the flood level and moving them away from large windows;
- Moving heavy and fragile objects to low shelves;
- Storing vital documents (plans, legal papers, etc.) in a secure off-site location;
- Regularly backing up vital electronic files (such as billing and payroll records and customer lists) and storing backup copies in a secure off-site location;
- Securing equipment that could move or fall during an earthquake; and
- Prior to hurricanes, covering or protecting vital documents and electrical equipment from potential wind driven rain, which may breach the building envelope through windows, doors, or roof systems.
Additional Tips to Secure Your Business
- Make sure you are aware of the details of your flood insurance and other hazard insurance policies, specifically which items and contents are covered and under what conditions. Check with your insurance agent if you have questions about any of your policies.
- When you identify equipment susceptible to damage, consider the location of the equipment. For example, equipment near a hot water tank or pipes could be damaged if the pipes burst during an earthquake, and equipment near large windows could be damaged during hurricanes.
- Assign disaster mitigation duties to your employees. For example, some employees could be responsible for securing storage bins and others for backing up computer files and delivering copies to a secure location.
- You may want to consider having other offices of your company or a third party service provider perform some administrative duties, such as maintaining payroll records or providing customer service.
- Estimate the cost of repairing or replacing each essential piece of equipment in your business. Your estimates will help you assess your vulnerability and focus your efforts.
- For both insurance and tax purposes, you should maintain written and photographic inventories of all important materials and equipment. The inventory should be stored in a safety deposit box or other secure location.
- Periodically evaluate the building envelope to make sure that wind and water are not able to penetrate the building. Do regular maintenance and repairs to maintain the strength of the building envelope.
For guidelines on developing an emergency action plan to protect your employees and business during a disaster, visit our section on Planning for Workplace Emergencies.
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