It is very easy to live in the comforts of New Hampshire and watch the devastation happening to our friends of the South riding out Hurricane Isaac and think, "Those poor people. Luckily that would never happen to us." Though the extent of damage caused by coastal flooding is highly improbable in NH, it should serve as an eye-opener to any business' vulnerability to devastation caused by any natural disaster.
As the agents of Holt Proctor McBriarty Insurance Agency have ridden out dozens of large storms over the years, here are four steps that every NH business owner should think about before any natural disaster strikes.
1. Identify your risks:
Each business will have its own unique obstacles that must be identified to know how to deal with them in an emergency. These risks can range from the location of your business (near a water source or isolated road) to what your primary business function is (labor, service provider or retail) and where your customers are located (in immediate area or around the world). You will want to consider both your loss of physical property (building/equipment) to loss of utilities required to run your business. You will also want to consider the most likely events to hit (blizzard/ice storm) and the possible but less-likely events (fire).
2. Consider alternatives to minimize impact of risk:
Once you have identified your risks you need to understand how these risks can impact your business. Insurance is obviously a great way to mitigate risk, but you need to understand how your policy will respond to the risks you identified in step 1 before you rest easy. Do you have loss of income coverage? Is there a waiting period? Am I covered for loss of utility service? Am I covered for flood or earthquake?
Many of these coverages are not automatically included in a business policy, but may be added. Call your insurance professional and set up an appointment to go over your risks. If there is a risk that can not be insured, you will be able to take steps to reduce its impact.
3. Have a written plan in place:
Now that you have identified your risks and considered alternatives, you can put a written plan in place on how to execute this plan should a natural disaster hit. To get started on your plan, visit Ready.gov. There is free information on methods of planning, implementing and testing your plan. (There is also a very funny video highlighting the importance of disaster preparedness for businesses. Click on the following image to link to the video.)
4. Periodically review and amend your plan:
As we all know things are always changing so your disaster preparedness plan needs to change with it. Maybe you now rely on an internet based site to service your clients, when before it was housed on your server. Or perhaps you now carry more perishable goods that would be lost quickly without power, or the point-person in executing your plan is no longer employed with you. Keeping information up to date will not only make the crisis less stressful, but also end up reducing the impact of your loss and hence saving money.
Disaster preparedness planning always seems to be on the back burner or priorities because you run a business. You have things to do that are important. Keep in mind, however, that by taking a little bit of time to make a plan you are much more likely to have a business to come back to after a disaster.