Damage from natural disasters is one of the leading causes of business insurance claims. The United States experienced $71 billion in insured losses due to natural disasters in 2018, and a staggering $143 billion in losses in 2017. A little preparation now will go a long way to help you weather the storm later.
The more you can reduce your business’s risk of natural disaster losses, the cheaper your insurance premiums will be—and the faster you’ll be able to reopen after a disaster. These four strategies will help keep your property and employees safe.
Protect Office Structures and Equipment
Even basic fireproofing and waterproofing can make a major difference in natural disaster losses. Here are a few easy ways to do it:
- Install a sprinkler system or other fire-suppression system.
- Use flame retardant building materials.
- Use flame retardant treatments and finishes on fabrics and other surfaces.
- Replace your floors with waterproof flooring.
- Install waterproof covers for equipment, especially electronics like servers and computers—this reduces information loss as well as property damage.
The goal of disaster preparedness isn’t to come out of a disaster unscathed—it’s to prevent as much damage as possible. Waterproof flooring won't prevent damage to equipment or inventory, but it will keep you from having to pay to have your flooring replaced in the midst of a crisis. Those savings add up fast.
Keep Emergency Supplies on Hand
Keeping an emergency supply kit on hand isn’t paranoid prepping: It’s recommended by FEMA. What supplies your business needs will depend on your location and niche. Items to put in your emergency kit might include:
- Non-perishable food and clean water in case customers or employees are trapped inside
- First aid supplies
- Antidotes and treatments for common poisons and hazards, especially for any hazardous materials kept on-site
- Bleach and/or sanitizing solution
- Rope and chains
- Dust masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Tools, especially wrenches and pliers, that can be used to turn off electronics
- Duct tape
- Tarps and sheeting
- Flashlights and headlamps
- Fire extinguishers
- A weather radio
- Cell phone and tablet chargers
Consider keeping a checklist of all of your emergency supplies to make it easy to replace used, lost or expired items in the kit. Keep the supplies in a place that’s both relatively sheltered and easily accessible, such as a utility closet.
Most importantly, train all employees on how to use the kit: Where it is, what’s in it, and when they should use it. A kit that no one’s comfortable using isn’t much better than no kit at all.
Train Employees on Likely Scenarios
Make disaster plans and teach your employees how to carry them out. Holding regular drills for tornadoes, earthquakes and other common disasters in your region gives your employees the best chance of dealing with these scenarios effectively.
Employees should be trained on how to safely evacuate the building in a natural disaster, including how to help customers and/or visitors evacuate. They should also know how to use relevant PPE, fire extinguishers and first aid supplies.
Get Small Business Insurance in Place Sooner Rather Than Later
Did you know that insurance agents can help you with disaster planning for your small business? Well, now you know. A phone call or email to your insurance company or agent is one of the most important steps you can take in natural disaster planning.
They’ll help you understand what is and isn’t included in your policy. They can also help you better understand the claims process, so you’ll know exactly what to do if disaster does strike. Lastly, some insurance companies provide special resources to small business owners, like online training or checklists. Your independent insurance agent can connect you to these resources, if they’re available.
Keep thinking ahead, and don’t be afraid to ask the experts for help. Just by reading this article, you’re already way ahead of the curve.
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