Preparing for the worst
Is your business ready?
By Melanie Mesaros
"It asks businesses a long list of questions to help identify weak points and it's meant to be scalable to any business – large or small," said Eberlein.
Ottoson said companies should view being prepared for an emergency as an extension of their existing safety program.
"If you are safety minded to begin with, consider how you can build on resources and address obstacles that might occur during a disaster," he said. "Keeping your employees safe should be a fundamental part of that response."
According to the Insurance Information Institute, 15 percent to 40 percent of businesses fail following a natural or manmade disaster. Smaller-scale disasters such as power outages or medical emergencies can also have a lasting effect, the Red Cross has found.
"One thing that can affect a small business is losing a key person," said Ianni. "Sudden cardiac arrest, for example, can be enough to threaten the entire business, especially if that person held all the knowledge and made important decisions."
Once a plan is created, Ianni encourages companies to conduct drills and rehearse who will be responsible for the different aspects of the plan.
"You'd be amazed how often this stuff sits on a shelf and is never exercised – often until the real emergency," he said. "An exercise doesn't have to break the bank – review simple communication."
"It's sometimes overwhelming to think about how your business or family would respond to a 9.0 earthquake," said Eberlein. "But if you are ready for the biggest disaster, you'll be ready for a small disaster like a power outage. Even if the earthquake doesn't come in our generation, you've still taken steps to ready your business for the small events that come our way."