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Disaster planning doesn’t end with COVID-19

COVID-19 changed how we do business, but what didn’t change is our need for cohesive small- business disaster plans. As we dive into summer, traditional weather threats are obvious. Not so obvious are threats from civil unrest or cybersecurity.

The U.S. Small Business Administration is here to help. To date, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the SBA approved 3.78 million Economic Injury Disaster Loans and 11.18 million Paycheck Protection Program loans, giving American small businesses access to more than $993 billion to keep their dreams alive.

Regardless of where a disaster comes from, you need to remember five words — prior planning prevents poor performance. Here are some tips.

• Check your insurance. Not all insurance policies cover every type of disaster. Know what your business insurance protects against, and expand your coverage if necessary.

• Know your risks. What are the most serious threats to your business? What will their impact be? Create a list. Review your county’s hazard analysis and mitigation plans. It will provide clues to what has happened in the past so you can be prepared for the future.

• Know your operations. Identify business functions and processes that are vital to your survival. Document procedures for workarounds or manual processes. Identify who can do what in cases of emergency and develop a training plan to cross train your team.

• Know your employees. They are the No. 1 asset of your company. Their safety is key. Make sure you can keep in touch with them no matter what. Create a contact tree and keep it up to date. Print and keep a hard copy. Designate a phone number and intranet site for employees to get status updates and leave messages.

• Know your equipment. What do you have, where is it located, and can it be moved to a safe place? Where can you outsource production? Take pictures. Inventory all equipment and review every six months. Keep hard copies of all equipment invoices, sales receipts, maintenance records, warranties and user manuals. Bundle these with those pictures and keep them in a safe, dry place you can access any time.

• Know your key customers, contacts, suppliers and vendors. They are vital to continued operations. Know how to contact them in case of emergency and share contingency plans.

• Know your Information Technology. Develop a severe weather plan to protect your equipment. Use the 3-2-1 backup rule. Save 3 copies of your data to 2 types of media and keep 1 backup at an off-site location. Also take pictures, keep invoices, sales receipts, maintenance records, warranties and user manuals and keep them in a safe off-site location. Create a separate inventory list of everything you would need to purchase or lease to perform critical business functions. Know who to contact and where to get it during a crisis.

• Know your finances. Replenish or restart your emergency reserve fund. Build reserves with the goal of being able to cover costs for at least one year. Consider getting a business credit card or establishing a line of credit. Create a must be paid list of folks who won’t be lenient when their bill is

due. Review insurance to

make sure it will adequately cover costs and production processes.

• Create a plan, write it down, and test it. Your disaster plan should look a lot like your regular business plan and include sections covering operations, finances and communications. Contact an SBA resource partner for advice. Once your plan is in place, contact your county’s emergency management team. Ask to be a part of their next community disaster readiness exercise.

• When disaster strikes, know where to go for help. Become engaged with your community. Get to know your county’s emergency management team, local elected officials, police and fire. Become involved with your local chamber and other small business and / or community organizations. Above all, reach out to the SBA and our partners for help. Reach the SBA

Northern Ohio Office at 216-522-4180, or www.sba.gov/oh/cleveland, or on Twitter

@SBA-Cleveland

To learn more about SBA, visit www.sba.gov.

Gil Goldberg is Northern Ohio District Director for the U.S. Small Business Administration

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