When you decided you would become a small business owner, the biggest worry you had was probably finding the right building, how to pay your employees, or if customers would buy your product. Over time, those things are still concerns, but now you probably think more about whether sales will continue to grow or if you can expand to a new location or hire another person to help out.
What many business owners don’t think about, until it’s too late, is how they’ll handle emergencies and disasters that might hit their business. Recent flooding in Louisiana and hurricane worries on the coast should remind us all that big storms and other emergencies can happen at any point.
Is your business ready for an emergency?
Prepare Your Building
Emergencies come in many forms - fire, flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, and even earthquakes. The first step in making sure your business can handle an emergency is to prepare your building.
- Make sure an automatic sprinkler system is installed.
- Install smoke detectors throughout the building and check the batteries regularly.
- Fire extinguishers should be easily accessible in several places. Have them inspected and recharged regularly.
- Fire lanes and exits should be kept clear at all times.
- Evacuation maps, well-lit exit signs, and random drills should be used to help employees and customers exit the building in an emergency.
- When a flood or big storm threatens, use sandbags to help keep water out of your building.
- Keep plywood or storm shutters handy to protect windows and the interior of your building in a big storm.
- Bolt shelving to the walls to keep them from tumbling over.
- Lock cabinets and drawers to stop them from swinging open.
- Large or heavy objects should be stored close to or on the floor.
At least once a year, inspect your building for potential hazards, safety violations, and ways to keep customers, employees, and product safe in the event of an emergency. Make changes as necessary and let your staff know that safety is a priority.
Create a Disaster Plan for Your Business
While you’re securing your building and inventory against potential disaster, you also need to create a disaster plan. No matter how many precautions you take, accidents and storms happen. With a disaster plan, you’ll know what to do.
- Compile communication information that includes a contact list of employees, vendors, and other people to call after an emergency. Make sure your insurance agent is in that list.
- Keep copies of your important paperwork with your disaster plan - licenses, contracts, bank information, business insurance paperwork, and more.
- Make sure your computer data is backed up regularly - at least once a week - and have a system to know where the backups are stored and who will have access to them.
- Define, in your plan, how your business will continue to function in the aftermath of an emergency: temporary closure, another location, who will do what work, etc.
- Have information that includes the location of emergency personnel such as fire, police, and hospitals in case you need it. Make sure your address is easy to find or that your location is easily identifiable when you call for emergency assistance.
Talk to Your Insurance Agent Regularly
Businesses grow and change over the years. The business insurance plan you selected when you opened up a few years ago probably won’t be enough now. After you’ve created your preparedness plan, turn your focus to your insurance policy. Do you have the right policy to rebuild after a major catastrophe? Do you even know what your insurance covers and what it doesn’t?
Set up an appointment to go over your current policy with your insurance agent and to talk over new options you may need to consider. With the right insurance policy, you’ll have peace of mind and a way to keep your business moving forward. If you need to make sure your business insurance protects you in an emergency, contact us at Charlotte Insurance today.