Disaster planning and your small business

November 9th, 2017 John Kimball

Disaster recovery planning – it’s one of those things every small business owner knows is important, but many avoid.

The truth is, you just never know when a disaster will strike, and it’s important to prepare your business for such an event, just as you would your home and family.

Despite the unpredictability of disasters, there is much you can do to prepare your businesses for things like floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, pandemics, terrorism or technology-related hazards such as the failure or malfunction of systems, equipment or software.

Why is a plan so important?

If businesses are ready to survive and recover, our economy is much more stable. Nearly half of all private sector employees work for small businesses and these organizations provide nearly 45 percent of the nation’s payroll. They are the backbone of our economy.

A commitment to developing an emergency preparedness plan will not only protect your business investment, it will also help support employees, customers, the community, the local economy and even the country.

Where to start?

Disaster planning can seem overwhelming, in large part because there are so many variables. Many business owners don’t know where to start, and as a result, don’t do anything.

Although it’s always best to have a complete plan, it’s better to have a few crucial pieces than nothing at all. In other words – if you can’t do everything, do something!


Ready Business

Ready Business, a government site, provides tools to create a preparedness plan. It incorporates many hazards and follows the program elements adopted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, called the National Fire Protection Association 1600, Standard on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs.

The framework they use is built around five steps:

  1. Program management
  2. Planning
  3. Implementation
  4. Testing and exercises
  5. Program improvement

Find out more about this approach on their website.


FEMA has a collection of “Emergency Preparedness Resources” on its website that is very detailed and provides a lot of actionable insights. Among them are:

  • Every Business Should Have A Plan” booklet – this document provides practical information to help you plan for your company’s future.
  • Sample Business Continuity Plan – this is a plan template that you can use to put together your custom plan. While this may not be the exact way you’ll want to organize your plan, it can give you a great starting point.
  • Emergency Response Plan – A 10-page document to help you identify the goals and objectives for your emergency response plan. This plan will help you define what your emergency response team is expected to do during an emergency (e.g., evacuate employees and visitors, provide first aid, etc.)

Small Business Administration (SBA)

The SBA has an area on its website dedicated to emergency preparedness. One resource we found particularly helpful was the section of specific disaster checklists and tips. There you can download checklists and safety tips for specific disasters such as hurricanes, winter weather, earthquakes, floods and more.

In addition, there are many other templates, plans and checklists made available on the SBA site that we encourage you to check out.

It’s only a matter of time before your business is going to face an emergency situation. The best preparation for any situation is to have a well-thought-out plan in place and to educate your team on its elements.

If you’ve got questions or would like help in beginning the planning process, please contact us!

About the author

John Kimball is Senior Vice President and Manager of SBA Lending for MidWestOne Bank.

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