Cox Business
(Cox Business photo)

Living and working in southern California has plenty of perks, but it comes with some major risks. One of the biggest of these is earthquakes, and we’ve had a few significant temblors recently. September is Disaster Preparedness Month nationwide, and that means you’ve probably heard the PSAs, talked to your kids about what to do, and stocked up your emergency kit at home (or at least made a mental note to do so). But if you’re a small business owner, have you thought about how you would keep your enterprise running in case of a major disaster?

You’re likely more focused on growing your business than protecting it in case of a catastrophic event like an earthquake or flooding—and you’re not alone. More than 75 percent of entrepreneurs don’t have a solid business continuity and disaster preparedness plan in place. Unfortunately, that lack of a plan can spell disaster for your livelihood, since 40-60 percent of small businesses who do not have a disaster recovery plan close their doors forever.

It’s also more than just your own business that depends on a good disaster recovery plan; small businesses (defined as those with 100 employees or fewer) employ thousands of people. If anything were to happen to interrupt business operations for those companies, such as a natural disaster disabling systems or destroying data, it could cripple Santa Barbara’s economy.

So, how can you use this month to make sure that your business, employees, family, and community are protected in case of the next “big one”? Here are some basic tips for small business owners:

1. First, read your insurance policy. Make sure everything necessary for your business is covered, just in case you experience losses. Ensure you have enough saved up to meet your deductible in case you have to file a claim. 

2. Get commercial earthquake insurance, if you don’t already have it. Most business insurance policies don’t include earthquake coverage, and you have to buy it separately. In California, it’s worth it. 

3. Check your electronic devices (computers, printers, scanners, etc.) and make sure they’re all plugged into a surge protector. Power surges after a major disaster can do a lot of damage. 

4. Set yourself up to work remotely. Forward landlines to your cell phone, and back all your data up with a cloud service, so you can continue to operate remotely, no matter what physical condition your office is in.

5. Put all the right emergency contact numbers into your phone. This includes police and fire departments, your insurance provider, power company, business services provider, employees, family, friends and any other important numbers you may need.

6. Back those emergency contact numbers up in the Cloud. Phones get lost, damaged, or stolen. Make sure all those emergency contact numbers are backed up in the cloud, on a second device, and even a print rolodex of some kind. 

7. Finally, once you’ve done all that, think more broadly about creating a business continuity plan, so you can be prepared for a long period without power, damage to roads inhibiting employees’ ability to get to work, etc. FEMA and the SBA (Small Business Administration) each offer checklists for business owners on what to do in the days before a disaster is likely to strike.

One more thing: while business owners in other states usually have time to prepare before a weather event like a hurricane, earthquakes strike pretty much without warning. Therefore, it’s good for all California businesses to start following these steps and then putting a disaster recovery plan in place right away if they haven’t already.

Small businesses are as much a part of their owners’ lives as their homes, and the Santa Barbara economy depends on them. This month, it’s worth thinking about how to protect them and ensure everyone bounces back after a major disaster.

Jared Ruth has more than 20 years of experience in the telecommunications industry. He is currently an executive for Cox Business, helping to bring innovative products and services to Southern California businesses.