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Extreme Weather Part I

Wild Weather Catching
Small Businesses Off Guard

How Small Business Owners Can Be Better Prepared

Superstorm Sandy devastates the east coast with heavy winds and storm surges that flood major cities and shorelines while dumping record snow in West Virginia and knocking out power as far away as Cleveland, OH.

Add Sandy to a growing list of freak storms. Just this summer, a violent string of thunderstorms called a "derecho" left a 700-mile trail of destruction across the Midwest and mid-Atlantic. A freak October blizzard in 2011 left millions of New Englanders without power for weeks only months after Hurricane Irene did the same. And in July 2011, a massive "haboob" sandstorm turned a sunny Phoenix sky black in a matter of minutes.

Weather events like these are increasingly the stuff of news headlines. In 2011 alone, a record 14 separate disasters struck the U.S., each costing a billion dollars or more in damages.1 Insured losses were the fifth highest on record, exceeding $35 billion.2 2012 is currently on record as having the most extreme temperatures of any year since such recordkeeping began in 1910.3

Unpredictable weather seems to be the new norm.

Being unprepared can be costly

No one can forecast when and where an extreme weather event will occur. Meteorologists may offer some warning and do a great job of explaining the conditions that created the event. But that’s little comfort to a business that finds its doors closed for weeks because it didn’t have a plan for weathering the storm in the first place.

Property damage, power outages, closed roads – these and other after-effects of extreme weather can force a business to close with financial repercussions that quickly add up. The event need not be of Katrina-sized proportion. For instance, a snowstorm that knocks out power for a week may not seem catastrophic but its impact on the finances of a small business can be devastating. Absentee employees facing their own personal losses will have a direct effect on a business’ ability to function, too.

It’s no wonder, then, that an estimated 40% of businesses don’t reopen after a disaster.Small businesses are especially vulnerable, simply because they often don’t have the time or resources to put into creating a comprehensive preparedness plan.

With unpredictable weather on the rise, the time for small business owners to plan is now. Take renewed stock of your risks and make sure your business is prepared and adequately protected.

Plan for the unexpected

There is much you can do to make your business more resilient to disaster. Here are some key areas to focus on.

  • Recognize the threats that nature may pose in your geographical area and take measures to reduce or eliminate your exposure. A structural engineer or your community building or zoning offices can identify ways to shore up your facility against the effects of earthquakes, high winds, flood and fire.

    Make sure you have protective systems in place. For example, an emergency generator can provide power during outages. Surge protectors can prevent damage to electronic equipment. Storm shutters can protect glass from flying debris under windy conditions.
  • Back up your computer data – regularly. This is a critical risk management step that most small business owners overlook at their peril. Fact is, of those companies that experience a catastrophic data loss, 43% never reopen and 51% close within two years.5

    So make computer backup part of your daily operations and store copies of your files at an offsite location. It can make the difference in your business’ survival should a catastrophe occur.
  • Develop a business continuity plan. A business continuity plan identifies the specific steps your business will take to return to operation after a disaster. It requires time and effort, but in the long run, it can help reduce loss, save lives and speed your business’ recovery.

For a quick reference guide on planning for the unexpected, read Ten Things You Can Do to Prepare.

Make sure you’re protected

Many businesses discover they’re not properly insured until after they’ve suffered a loss. The results can be devastating financially.

As part of your preparedness planning, take some time to review your insurance coverage with your agent, especially if you haven’t done so in a while. Together you can discuss the potential risks to your business and determine if you have the right coverage – and the right amount of coverage – if your facilities are damaged or operations are interrupted for a period of time.

Being prepared and protected makes good business sense. A temporary setback does not need to turn into a permanent failure. Plan today to stay in business tomorrow.


1 “2011 a Year of Climate Extremes in the United States,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), January 19, 2012

2 Munchener Ruckversicherungs-Gesellschaft, Geo Risks Research, NatCatSERVICE. As of January 2012

3 National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), as of September 1, 2012

4 Protecting Your Businesses, FEMA, last updated 3/1/2013 

5 University of Texas Center for Research on Information Systems, as cited in “Impact on U.S. Small Business of Natural and Man-Made Disasters,” Hewlett Packard Development Company, L.P., 2007

 

 

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