Stop for a moment and think about all the time and resources you've invested in your small business. Now imagine that it's all gone - facilities, equipment, everything. What do you do?
Every year, this hypothetical question becomes real to thousands of small-business owners who suffer losses in fires, natural disasters and other events.
Although many potential disasters are unpredictable, a disaster management plan can be helpful. It may not be pleasant to think about, but the consequences of not doing it are far worse.
Here are some tips:
Identify potential hazards. Consider both natural events (hurricanes and floods, earthquakes and ice storms) as well as man-made disasters such as fires, spills and civil unrest. Such events could disrupt your utilities, logistics and supply chains.
Develop contingency plans. Assess the feasibility of operating out of a rented office space or even your home, and what equipment/resources would be needed. Important documents, back-up copies of computer records, software and other vital information should be stored in a fireproof container or at an off-site location.
Ensure the safety of employees and customers. Develop an evacuation plan that includes access to shelters, hospitals and other emergency services. Keep emergency telephone numbers clearly posted and maintain up-to-date emergency contact and essential medical information for all employees.
Review your business insurance coverage. At a minimum, your coverage should be enough to get your business back in operation and cover replacement costs.
Stephen L. Rosenstein is co-chairman of the Greater Baltimore SCORE Chapter No. 3. Call 410-962-2233 to speak to a SCORE counselor or visit www.scorebaltimore.org. To send a question to SCORE, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.