Businesses need disaster plans, too

Monday, June 7, 2010

It's easy to get complacent about storm warnings in Southwest Nebraska and Northwest Kansas, with doppler radar, Internet and wireless communication supplementing conventional broadcast warnings, storm chasers feeding the latest information into the mix.

But Saturday night's storms in Ohio and Illinois are a reminder of the devastation that can result even with the best of warnings.

Ground zero was Lake Township southeast of Toledo, where, the night before graduation, the roof and one wall were ripped off the school gymnasium where the ceremony was to take place. The father of the class valedictorian left the safety of a basement shelter to turn on a generator, only to be killed by the twister.

It was an EF-3, a big tornado, but not the biggest. Seven were killed by the storms, but had the storm shifted a few miles into the Toledo suburbs, the toll would have been much higher.

After a few relatively calm seasons, this year promises to be an especially stormy one, according to weather experts.

We've probably all got the message that we need to keep an eye on the weather and an ear open for storm watches and warnings, but the Small Business Administration has some ideas not only for individual homeowners, but the small businesses that are so vital to putting a community back on its feet once the storm has passed.

According to a website created by the SBA and the Agility Recovery Solutions firm, here are some ideas for disaster preparedness for homes and businesses:

* Have a written emergency response plan. It should include evacuation routes from your home or business, meeting places, emergency phone numbers and someone designated as a contact person for communicating with other employees, customers and vendors. An out-of-state friend or family member should serve as a "post-disaster" point of contact, a person to call to provide information on your safety and whenabouts.

* Adequate insurance. Make sure you have enough to at least rebuild your home, and businesses should consider "business interruption insurance."

* Make copies of important records, back up vital records and information from computer hard drives, and store them at a distant off-site location.

* A "disaster survival kit" with flashlight, portable radio, extra batteries, first-aid kit, non-perishable packaged and canned food, bottled water, a basic tool kit, plastic bags, cash and a disposable camera to take pictures of the property damage.

After the storm, the SBA can also provide help getting your business back on its feet.

More information is available at 222.sba.gov/disasterassistance and www.ready.gov, or call 800 BE READY for free materials.

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