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Vital Information: Safeguard your records to keep your business operating in an emergency

Adrienne Sannachan

As a small business owner, you’ve invested a lot of time and money into making your business a success. Now imagine a disaster wiping out all of your hard work in an instant. It seems unthinkable, yet 30 per cent of small businesses in the U.S. have closed due to a natural disaster, and one in four of them don’t re-open. Disasters such as fire, winter storms, flooding or even power outages can leave your small business facing damages to property and assets or lost revenues because of business interruption. To make sure you’re able to get back on your feet after disaster strikes, prepare yourself using these tips.

Know your insurance

To protect your small business from physical damage, insure the contents of your office space, from computer equipment to inventory, as well as the property itself if you own your building. Business interruption insurance is also a useful tool for small businesses, as it will cover lost revenues in the case that you need to temporarily stop doing business due to a disaster.

Protecting against data loss

The best way to make sure that your business can be up and running quickly after a disaster is to protect your vital records. You should keep copies of any records that will be needed for insurance, legal or tax purposes, or are key to continued business success. These could include customer lists, payroll information and photographs of office equipment for insurance purposes. Keep a hard copy of your vital records in a place other than your office, as well as an electronic copy, either on a USB stick or hosted securely online.

A contingency plan for continuing business

It’s smart to develop a business continuity plan that identifies your most important business functions and how you would continue them if a disaster were to strike. If your business is directly affected by a disaster, but your customers aren’t, it’s important to continue to serve them, or else they could get frustrated and look elsewhere. A list of key customers and their contact information should be included in your vital records. it’s also a good idea to form an agreement with a similar business that can temporarily take over your customers, in case you’re completely unable to supply products or services temporarily

If your small business experiences property damage, the quickest way to get things back up and running may be to relocate. Know where you would move in the case of disaster and how you would get the necessary equipment needed to continue operations from that new site.

If a s disaster occurs in your community, even if your business escapes unscathed, it can affect your suppliers, so it’s good to keep supplier contact information as well as information for alternate suppliers as part of your vital records. A disaster could also leave your employees unable to come to work. Your vital records should include contact information for every staff member and you should also be prepared to maintain payroll continuity and provide additional financial aid to employees should they need it. .

Preparing yourself and your employees

Above all, it’s important to prepare yourself and your staff. At least once a year, update vital records, hold evacuation drills and discuss the disaster plan with staff.

There are some useful resources that can help with planning. The Government of Canada provides a guide with the information needed to create a business continuity plan (find itat You can also download the Your Plan app for your iPhone, developed by the Insurance Information Institute, and have all disaster plans, forms and checklists right at your fingertips.

by Alexandria Eldridge, From Commerce News: The Voice of Business in Edmonton Tuesday April 2, 2013 Vol 35 No4