Every small business owner faces risks, but some may face a few more simply due to geography. Businesses located in “Tornado Alley” fit that bill. This geographical region—which includes parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska—sees and average of more than 1,000 tornadoes a year. Small business owners can’t ignore this risk—being unprepared can be costly. No one can stop a tornado, but owners can take steps, like obtaining business insurance, to ensure that if the worst happens, their business is protected from long-term impact.
Have the Right Insurance Coverage
Anyone who lives where tornadoes are common needs insurance. But small business owners need to make sure they have enough. Tornadoes require more than just damage coverage. There are unseen costs you might not consider, like the cost of removing debris, the fee for an engineer to assess structural damage or the loss of profits due to business interruption. The latter has a major impact on businesses after a tornado.
What if you’re a retail business with local suppliers or customers who were affected by the storm? What if tragedy strikes and a key employee (or even you) is hurt and unable to work? It’s important to have an honest, in-depth conversation with your insurance representative about what you’ll need to protect your business in the days—even weeks—after a tornado.
Proactive Measures to Ensure the Safety of Employees and Customers
The first thing to address in your tornado preparation plan should be protecting what’s most valuable: the safety of the people around you. Small business owners need to sit down in advance and account for everyone who is their under their responsibility.
Long before a tornado ever touches down, small business owners should know:
- Where employees, customers or visiting clients will seek shelter if a twister strikes
- If their in-building shelter will fit everyone, and if not, the closest alternative location
- If your business has drivers, how can they protect themselves
- Who will be in charge of an evacuation if you are out of the office
Create a Post-Tornado Continuity Plan
Your plan should cover not only what must happen before and during a tornado but also what to do in the aftermath. This is especially important if your place of business was destroyed or severely damaged, and suddenly you and your employees must temporarily relocate to continue operations. A few things you should incorporate in your continuity plan:
- An accessible off-site location for your employees to work
- Employee access to computers, software, VPNs and backups if they’ll work remotely
- A call tree so everyone can check in on the well being and safety of colleagues
- Employee understanding of their responsibilities, both in terms of continuing work and checking in with others, if communication has been compromised
Having a continuity plan in place will ensure that work can continue as seamlessly as possible
with a minimum of disruption.
Keep Your Business Data Backed Up and Secure
If you want to protect your business, protect your data. Records of invoices, accounts, receivables, payable and more need to be safe. A few things to keep in mind are:
- Save everything to a cloud server. “Backing it up off-site is a very important thing,” says Michael Aumack, a spokesman for with the U.S. Small Business Administration.
- Considering external hard drives for file back-ups you can take with you for extra security.
- Make sure you have important information handy, especially your insurance policy and cloud provider’s contact information, so you can quickly get your business on the path to recovery.
“When you live in a high-disaster area, it becomes a way of life,” Rose says. “The more you do, the further it increases your ability to be able to take the impact and recover from the storm.” Being prepared for a tornado should be just another part of conducting your business when living in “Tornado Alley.”