National Preparedness Month
By Steven Brill and Susan Neely
To help small businesses better prepare
for possible natural disasters or terrorist
attacks, September has been designat-ed as National Preparedness Month by a
national coalition including the Department
of Homeland Security.
can be vulnerable to attack. Depending on
your particular industry and the size and scope
of your company, you may need specialized
cyber-security expertise. And no matter what
size your business, you can benefit from inexpensive virus-protection software.
Preparing for emergencies frequently
becomes a back-burner issue for most busy
entrepreneurs, until the unthinkable happens.
Here are steps to take to make sure that your
business, your customers and your employees are ready for disasters. Follow them to
help your company—and, indeed, your country—stay open for business.
• Secure facilities and plants. Consider
whether you could benefit from automatic
fire sprinklers, alarm systems, closed-circuit
TV, access control, guards or other security
systems. If appropriate, upgrade your office,
plant or facility to withstand high winds.
• Plan and drill for fire emergencies. Fire
is the most common of all business disasters.
Install fire extinguishers and smoke alarms in
appropriate places and assign someone to test
• Prepare for medical emergencies.
Encourage employees to get training in basic first
aid and offer on-site training, available through
your local American Red Cross chapter.
• Develop a business continuity plan.
Figure out what procedures and equipment
are absolutely necessary to keep your business operating. Then make backup plans so
that if your office, plant or store should suddenly become inaccessible, or if your primary
contractors, suppliers or shippers cannot service your needs, you can carry on.
• Review insurance coverage. Inadequate
insurance coverage can lead to major financial
loss if your business is damaged, destroyed or
disrupted for a period of time. Meet with your
insurance provider to review current coverage
for such things as physical losses, flood coverage and business interruptions. Use specific,
if uncomfortable, hypothetical scenarios to
pin down exactly whether and how you would
be covered in various situations. Your insurance coverage should be something you
understand before you have to rely on it.
Also, get ready for utility disruptions.
Make plans to borrow an office or a warehouse in return for offering the same temporary accommodation to another business in
your community. Be sure that copies of key
personnel, financial and other records are
stored at an alternative site.
• Improve cyber-security. Every computer
THE COSTCO CONNECTION
• Make a business communications plan.
Involve your workers at all levels in planning
how to communicate in the event of an emer-
gency. Have a list of the telephone contacts
and home e-mail addresses of your employ-
ees. Set up a telephone call tree or a password-
protected page on the company Web site.
Designate a place where key employees
will meet on the first business day after an
emergency, should that emergency happen
overnight or on a weekend and your office
Costco warehouses carry a variety of items
needed in emergencies, including bottled
water, generators, flashlights, batteries,
duct tape, medical supplies and more.
• Get emergency-supply kits. Think about
the basics of survival: fresh food, water, clean
air and warmth. Have portable kits on hand
for each of your employees that include a
whistle, radio, flashlight and dust masks.
Encourage your employees to add personal
items, such as medication, to these kits.
• Assess building air protection. Heating,
ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems can be an entry point and method of distributing biological, chemical and radiological
contaminants. There are simple measures—
such as securing air intakes and controlling
who has access to the HVAC system—that all
building owners and managers can take to help
protect people from some airborne threats.
• Plan for mail safety. A properly informed and well-trained workforce can overcome
the terrorist threats that enter the nation’s
mailrooms. The Web site www.ready.gov can
teach employees how to inspect packages and
handle suspicious items.
• Practice your plans. Drills and exercises
will help you prepare your employees for what
to do in the event of an emergency. It took four
hours to evacuate the World Trade Center during the first bombing in 1993 and 45 minutes
on September 11, 2001. Drilling saves lives.
• Let knowledge replace fear. Be informed about different threats and how to respond.
Visit www.ready.gov to learn about natural
disasters and terrorist threats. Encourage your
employees to do the same.
One last tip—and it may be the most important—take personal charge. If there’s a
communications drill or even a fire drill, lead
it; don’t sit it out because you’re too busy. If
your employees see that the boss is personally involved in directing these simple preparation efforts they’ll get the message that this
is important work for all Americans. C
Steven Brill is the chairman of The America
Prepared Campaign Inc., a nonprofit
campaign to get Americans more prepared
for a terrorist attack. Susan Neely is the
assistant secretary of public affairs for the
Department of Homeland Security.