Staying open after a disaster

By Adam Spencer, The Triplicate November 01, 2012 08:36 am

Business owners advised on surviving in aftermath 

Immediately following a large-scale disaster, the health and safety of family and friends takes obvious precedence.

But after these concerns have been addressed, the next priority is returning to some sense of normalcy, which includes getting back to work.

At a workshop last week, more than 80 people, most representing private small businesses, learned how to keep their enterprise afloat in the wake of a disaster. The workshop featured information and presentations by representatives of FEMA and  the California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA).

One of the first ways to keep revenue flowing is to help with the recovery effort. To do that, business are advised to register  the good, services and equipment that could be utilized before the disaster strikes, said Cindy Henderson, director of Del Norte Office of Emergency Services.

“We’re going to have to build an entire new city after a big disaster,” Henderson said at the workshop.

During a recovery, the county would prefer to use local resources when that option exists.  But Henderson stressed the importance of having local businesses inventory their resources with the county beforehand, so the availability of local resources is not overlooked in the urgency of a post-disaster recovery.

Forty to sixty percent of small businesses do not come back within two years after a disaster, emergency agency representatives said.  Small- and medium-sized businesses found in Del Norte are even more susceptible to the long-term effects of a disaster. To fight the trend, FEMA and Cal EMA folks encouraged “business continuity planning.”

Attendants were urged to draft a “business continuity” plan outlining how their business would stay healthy if, say, their storefront was destroyed or if their supply chain was interrupted.  Elements of such a plan include: creating back-up copies of vital records and contacts (possibly at multiple locations), identifying an emergency set-up location for the business, and making sure employees are prepared.

Small business owners and managers should encourage their employees to prepare and plan for a disaster, as they are a company’s most valuable assets, Cal EMA representatives said.  

Cal EMA representatives encouraged attendants to identify the risks associated with the location of their business. There is a useful website where an exact address can be entered to identify natural risks: myhazards.calema.ca.gov.

Henderson also encouraged private business owners to sign a “memorandum of understanding” with the county.

 Henderson would like to sit down with a representative of every business interested in the community to identify how different businesses might be utilized post-disaster.

To get involved call Cindy Henderson, director of Del Norte Office of Emergency Services at (707) 954-8775.

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