Businesses Need to be Prepared for Hurricane Irene and Other Disasters

Flooding. Drought. Tornadoes. And now, the first major hurricane of the season. Americans have been hard-hit by natural disasters this year, and small businesses are no exception.

Hurricane Irene left thousands of Puerto Rico businesses without power. Now, Irene is fast approaching the East Coast.  Businesses owners from Georgia to New England should take time now – if they haven’t already – to ensure that their disaster preparedness plans are up to date.If you’re in the path of Hurricane Irene, make sure to check out the resources and updates available below.

We know that some of the busiest people in America are small business owners. Sometimes it’s hard for them to look beyond the most pressing, immediate business concerns. But an “ounce of prevention” today could mean the difference in whether a business is able to return to regular operations after a disaster.

There are several steps that businesses can take now before disaster strikes.

  • Make sure that both employee and customer contact information is up-to-date and readily available at both on- and off-site locations.
  • Make copies of important documents, such as insurance policies and financial records.
  • Have a robust communication plan as part of maintaining continuity so stakeholders know what you are doing before, during, and after the disaster.
  • Review emergency response plans and continuity of operations plans so everyone is familiar with approved procedures and their individual responsibilities.
  • Check stocks of emergency preparedness supplies and safety equipment.
  • Ensure that warning or alert systems for employees are in order.

Most of all, we encourage everyone in the community to listen to local public officials. If they say to close up shop or evacuate, don’t hesitate.

The U.S. Small Business Administration and the American Red Cross have teamed up to help prevent the loss of lives and livelihoods. For example, we are promoting critical tools such as www.readyrating.org. This free site measures a business’ ability to respond to emergencies and gives customized feedback.

And make no mistake. The SBA and the Red Cross will be there for communities that have been hit. The Red Cross will step in to provide shelter, food and emotional support as well as clean up kits and other assistance following the disaster. And the SBA is activating hundreds of on-call reservists to assess damage, to assist in our call center, and to provide low-interest loans to homeowners, renters, businesses and nonprofits of all sizes.

Studies show that between 15 and 40 percent of businesses don’t recover from major natural or man-made disasters. We’ve lost too many of them in this record year for disasters. We need to make sure each business has every possible opportunity to rebuild and bounce back.

We remain vigilant and prepared, regardless of whether Hurricane Irene strengthens or weakens in the coming days. And all small businesses should recognize that another hurricane – or other unexpected threat – could be just around the corner. There is no time like the present to help ensure that America’s small business owners and communities are ready for whatever comes their way.

Department of Homeland Security
On Twitter @DHSJournal
On Facebook www.facebook.com/homelandsecurity

FEMA
Blog Updates from FEMA
On Twitter @FEMA
On Facebook http://www.facebook.com/FEMA

Ready Campaign
www.ready.gov/hurricanes
www.readybusiness.gov
www.listo.gov
On Twitter: @ReadydotGov

NOAA/National Hurricane Center
Tracking Hurricane Irene 
On Twitter: @NHC Atlantic
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/US.NOAA.NationalHurricaneCenter.gov  

American Red Cross
Latest updates
On Twitter: @RedCross
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/redcross

Gail McGovern is the President and CEO of the American Red Cross and Karen Mills is the Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration
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