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Ask CJ: Becoming the Master of Disaster (Planning That Is…)

NH Business Resource Center Seacoast Business Service Specialist Christine Davis

I decided to shake things up a bit this week and instead of answering reader’s business questions, I have a question for businesses. 

Q: Do you have a plan in place in the event of a crisis or natural disaster?

I was home with my youngest daughter, Emma, a few days back as she had a sore throat.  Since I was going to be in Exeter all day, I decided to be proactive and see if we could get teeth cleaning / checks moved to that day too.  Lucky for me they had some cancellations and the girls and I headed over. 

I like to think I am the type of person who is prepared and stays ahead of the game.  Apparently, I’m not.  I had a strong suspicion that one or two of my fillings were cracked as I had been having some sensitivity for a while and sure enough I was right.  Not only were the fillings cracked, but the teeth they resided in were cracked as well.  My dentist had told me a long time ago that I needed a mouth guard as I grind my teeth at night (stress rears its ugly head in so many different ways).  I didn’t want to believe it was really that big of a deal and so I didn’t take a simple precaution that I now know would have saved me at least $2,000.00.  It was preventable.  

I am sharing this little story about my foolishness because as I was driving back from attending the “When Disaster Strikes-Business Continuity Workshop,” I started thinking about how easy it is to prevent a disaster in both our personal and business lives yet we often take foolish risks and hope for the best.  The session I attended is part of a series of free half-day workshops that go over the steps a business should take now to keep their business up and running in the event of a disaster. 

I admit that I did not have a plan in place when I was running the Women’s Business Center in Portsmouth.  When the water heater let loose one night, we weren’t prepared.  The only reason we didn’t end up in a really bad place was sheer luck.  If it had happened on a Saturday night, we would have had to shut down operations for much longer than I would like to admit.  Counting on luck in your business isn’t a great plan.

Fortunately there is a second workshop that is taking place on Thursday, June 30th in Rochester for anyone who is able to attend.  For those who cannot, I wanted to share some of the resources and tips that I learned today. 

First of all, I quickly learned that “disasters” aren’t limited to floods, ice and tornados.  Interruptions in your supply chain, cyber security breaches and workplace violence are all forms of man-made disasters that affect businesses.

The many different faces of disasters have pretty ugly results as well. It was noted the 40-60% of small businesses do not survive a disaster.  In the past five years, over 1,300 businesses reached out to the NH Division of Economic Development, www.nheconomy.com, in response to disaster related issues.  I wonder how much of that could have been prevented by better planning?

Jeannette McDonald of Cogent Solutions LLC. in Portsmouth, referenced a list of questions that she pulled from a great website, www.ready.gov.  The site is loaded with good simple information that covers business continuity issues.  The following questions and suggestions are a great start to getting your business prepared for any natural or man-made interruption:
1. What are your potential risks?
2. Assess your critical business functions
3. Can you depend on your supply chain?
4. Create an emergency management plan
5. Where is your back-up data stored? 
6. Create a crisis communication plan and include social media
7. Can my business survive for more than a few days?
8. What is my insurance coverage?  Do I have business interruption coverage?
9. Where else can I run my business?
10. Create, communicate, practice, reevaluate again and again

These topics were expanded upon in the discussions throughout the morning event and were touched upon by industry experts from Homeland Security, Fire and EMS, Social Media, Public and Media Relations and the Small Business Administration.  No matter what size your business happens to be, it is so important that you are prepared for any number of disasters.  Investing a few hours of your time to create an emergency management plan could not only save you thousands of dollars but could potentially save your business.

Other online resources include www.preparemybusiness.org, and www.sba.gov.  The next workshop for “When Disaster Strikes” is Thursday June 30, 8:00 am – 12:00 pm in Conference Room 1A at the Rochester Community Center, 150 Wakefield St, Rochester, NH.  There is no charge to attend.   For more information and to register, visit: http://strafford-disaster-eorg.eventbrite.com/  Registration isn’t required to attend.

Christine J. Davis works for the N.H. Division of Economic Development as a resource specialist serving businesses in Rockingham and Strafford counties. Her role is to provide the support needed for businesses so that they may remain viable and growing entities in the community. Ms. Davis lives in Exeter with her two daughters.  When not performing her work or parenting duties she likes to spend time outdoors and discovering news places and activities in the community with her girls.  She can be reached at Christine.davis@dred.state.nh.us.

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