A major hurricane – with winds at least 111 mph – hasn't hit the United States since 2005, and I'm not forgetting about "Hurricane Sandy" and the devastation it caused. Technically, Sandy wasn't a hurricane.
However, we should take Sandy as a stark warning that stands in the midst of some pretty mellow years in terms of hurricane damage. While I'm not a fan of saying "we're due" for a major hurricane, I am a fan of saying small businesses should take disaster preparedness seriously.
It's always easy to think that bad stuff is going to happen to "the other guy." But remember, to everyone else, you are the other guy. Many businesses that were caught unprepared during Hurricane Sandy took a long time to recover, even when they didn't suffer substantial damage to their physical plants. More on that below.
Business Survival Guides: Hurricanes and More
Hurricane Sandy hit more than 23,000 New York City businesses, and most of them had fewer than 50 employees. Disasters like that claim about 40 percent of the businesses they hit, according to FEMA. Just as it takes a solid business plan for success in business, it takes a solid disaster plan to come through these terrible situations and land on your feet.
Here are some resources that can help you start planning:
- For East Coast businesses, NOAA offers a general guide to hurricanes and hurricane preparedness that you can download for free. It's good, especially in its ability to scare you to action.
- To get a more comprehensive picture of natural disasters – such as tornadoes, wildfires and floods – go to Ready.gov.
- The Small Business Administration website offers materials specifically for getting your business ready should a disaster strike.
Why You Should Always Back Up Your Data
It's no secret that many small-business owners still refuse to take data backup seriously. And when disasters strike, it's easy to lose valuable business information forever, even if the roof doesn't get blown off your building.
Until a few years ago, many backup devices were vulnerable because they were typically kept in the same location as the devices they were backing up. But now, with cloud backup services widely available and inexpensive, there is really no excuse for any small business to lose important data during any kind of natural disaster.
We need to add a word of caution here, however. If you're located in a hurricane or flood zone, it's not very helpful if the data center you use for backup – or your web presence – is only one block away.
When you sign on with any data center service, find out where their facilities are located and how well they are prepared to deal with natural disasters.
Susan Solovic is THE Small Business Expert. In addition to her work guiding small businesses, Susan is a NYT bestselling author, media personality, keynote speaker, and former ABC News small biz contributor. Follow her on Twitter, or visit her website, SusanSolovic.com.