Would your business survive a natural disaster?

About 40 percent of small businesses do not reopen after falling victim to a natural disaster and another 25 percent don't survive for a year after the event, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Whether it's an earthquake, flood or fire, these disasters can take a flourishing business and completely destroy both its physical and financial foundation. Disasters are unpredictable, and you can never completely remove the possibility that one will affect your business. You also don't want to have to live in constant fear that a bolt of lightning will completely eradicate everything you've worked so hard for.

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The businesses that do survive a natural disaster tend to have one thing in common: they took the time to recognize a worst case scenario and took the necessary steps to establish a disaster recovery plan. This enabled them to ensure the survival of essential business materials so they could return to work as quickly as possible. Here are three steps you can take to minimize the effects of a natural disaster on your small business.

Know Your Vulnerabilities

Disasters don't usually provide advanced warning, but that doesn't mean you can't take inventory of the disaster-related issues that could possibly affect your business. This includes not only the larger geographical and meteorological possibilities, like being in a flood zone or near a fault line, but also certain considerations about your building or office space. Even if your landlord has provided an inventory of safety disclosures, it is helpful to have a third party inspect your business, so you are aware of any structural and electrical issues. This will allow you to create a layout that minimizes the possibility that damage done to the building will affect the vitals of your business.

Identify and Protect the Invaluables

It can be tempting to assume that insurance and federal aid will cover all of the financial and structural damage incurred by a natural disaster. The fact is that insurance doesn't always cover certain kinds of events, including certain "act of god" disasters like a fallen tree or flood. Plus, all of the financial assistance in the world isn't going to return your financial records, servers and infrastructure, so you need to take steps to protect these intangibles. In the digital age, this most often means storing a backup of your business's most valuable data offsite. As Chris Lott, a cloud expert, explains in a recent article for Top 10 Cloud Storage, the focus should be on protecting the technology and data that support your business. This stuff is going to be a lot harder to replace, and indeed many small businesses can't recover due to the overwhelming task of starting from zero. Cloud backup is going to make it much easier to re-establish your business from a remote location. The key to survival is business continuity, and step one of picking back up is knowing exactly where you left off.

Make Sure Your Employees Are Educated

You want your staff to have the proper training so they know how to operate before, during and after a natural disaster. All employees should have an end-of-work routine that involves securing important documents, backing up files and inspecting their work area for any possible hazards. These are small steps that can help prevent a small disaster, and can alleviate the effects of a larger one. Also, by practicing your emergency plan ahead of time you can help to ensure that everyone is aware of their role when the real thing comes. It's going to be a confusing enough time as it is, and a little pre-planning might mean the difference between going back to work and going under.

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