Don’t let a disaster ruin your recovery effort

Disaster preparation is one of those tasks that many small business owners keep planning to get to, but keep putting off. And it certainly may not seem like a priority at a company that’s contending with slumping sales and cash flow during a recession.

While it’s understandable that some owners don’t get around to disaster planning, they’re courting danger.

“This is wrath of God stuff,” said John Toigo, a disaster recovery consultant based in Dunedin, Fla.

Without disaster planning, “there’s no way I’d be able to recover my retirement,” he said, referring to the fact that so many owners expect to some day sell their companies and live off the proceeds.

Minimal preparation — the kind you’d have to resort to if a disaster were in fact on the way — can be accomplished in an hour. And you can do much more if you have the luxury of an entire day.

Toigo said the first thing to be done is to put together a list of contact phone numbers, physical and e-mail addresses for everyone on the staff, and to be sure everyone has a copy. Staffers should provide several different ways that they can be reached during an emergency.

Luis Yepez, vice president of Mainstream Global, a Lawrence, Mass.-based computer reseller, said owners should also let employees know they’re concerned about their staffers’ welfare.

“Stress the important, that you care about their safety, their well being,” he said.

Just as crucial is to let employees know that you’re prepared for the contingencies, that you’ve thought about how you’re going to get the company up and running. In other words, you’ve thought about how you’re going to protect their jobs.

Yepez noted that it’s also important to know how you’re going to stay in touch with your clients, customers and vendors. They need to know your situation because what happens to you affects them.

The fact is, though, if you’re doing eleventh-hour disaster prep, you may not have thought it all out. But you can talk to staff and e-mail your business associates and let everyone know so they won’t be left wondering about what’s going on.

Because of the number of options for backing up data, it is now a relatively simple task that can be done quickly and cheaply. Toigo noted that it’s easy to pop a flash drive into the USB ports of your computers and back up all your information including customer and vendor lists, your firm’s books and inventory lists and the projects you’re working on (this is something you should be doing on an ongoing basis anyhow). You can also e-mail data to a non-work address for safekeeping.

If you can’t back up your data, grab your server and take it with you. If you have laptops, of course they’re very easy to transport.

Besides getting your data backed up, you should also be grabbing important documents that will help you if you have to submit an insurance claim. That includes policies and, if they’re easy to find, invoices to prove how much you paid for computers, furniture and other equipment. Though you may need to reference these documents at work, you should keep copies off-site as well.

You may not have time to physically prepare your office, warehouse or store within that one hour, but you should turn off utilities.

If you have a day to prepare, then clearly there’s more you can do, including creating a more detailed communications procedure for your staff, and taking more steps to protect your premises. Disconnect your servers and other important office machines and get them off-site. You have time to take more of your most critical paper files with you as well.

The Internet is a great resource for disaster prep suggestions for small businesses. The Institute for Business &Home Safety’s site,, and the federal government’s guide at go into some detail, that even at the last minute might prove helpful. The Small Business Administration also has information at

Joyce Rosenberg writes about small business issues for the Associated Press.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Left to right, president Bill Peterson, vice president Jamie Gamez, and executive vice president Jeff Cannon pose for a photo at Morris Magnets in Monroe, Washington, on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Gift and souvenir maker Morris Magnets calls Monroe home

Morris makes 30,000 items like refrigerator magnets and key chains a day out of its factory.

Scenes from the Jackson High School graduation ceremony at Angel of the Winds in Everett, Washington on Saturday, June 17, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Looking back on 20 years of Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett

The 10,000 seat arena, community ice rink and conference center continues to draw 700,000 visitors to downtown Everett per year.

Two students walk along a path through campus Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, at Everett Community College in Everett, Washington. The college’s youth-reengagement program has lost its funding, and around 150 students are now without the money they need to attend classes. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Fewer students enroll at state’s public colleges, study says

Enrollment has picked up since the pandemic, but the lag threatens the state’s quest for education equity.

Richie del Puerto watches as a student works to jump start a car during class at Sno-Isle Technical Skills Center on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021 in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Washington’s Job Skills Program has trained employees for 40 years

Since 1983, over 75,000 workers have taken advantage of the state program.

Fluke Corp. President Jason Waxman at the Everett offices on Tuesday, May 9, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett’s Fluke Corp. adds solar test firm to its portfolio

The acquistion of Solmetric boosts Fluke’s solar test and measurement product line.

Yansi De La Cruz molds a cheese mixture into bone shapes at Himalayan Dog Chew on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Give a dog a bone? How about a hard cheese chew from Arlington instead!

Launched from a kitchen table in 2003, Himalayan Pet Supply now employs 160 workers at its new Arlington factory.

Cash is used for a purchase at Molly Moon's Ice Cream in Edmonds, Washington on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Washington minimum wage to top $16 an hour next year

Meanwhile, some salaried workers and rideshare drivers could see their earnings rise from other state-required adjustments.

Inside the new Boeing 737 simulator at Simulation Flight in Mukilteo, Washington on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
New Boeing 737 simulator takes ‘flight’ in Mukilteo

Pilots can test their flying skills or up their game at Simulation Flight in Mukilteo.

An Amazon worker transfers and organizes items at the new PAE2 Amazon Fulfillment Center on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amazon cuts ribbon on colossal $355M fulfillment center in Arlington

At 2.8 million square feet, the facility is the largest of its kind in Washington. It can hold 40 million “units” of inventory.

A computer rendering of the North Creek Commerce Center industrial park in development at 18712 Bothell-Everett Highway. (Kidder Mathews)
Developer breaks ground on new Bothell industrial park

The North Creek Commerce Center on Bothell Everett Highway will provide warehouse and office space in three buildings.

Dan Bates / The Herald
Funko president, Brian Mariotti is excited about the growth that has led his company to need a 62,000 square foot facility in Lynnwood.
Photo Taken: 102312
Former Funko CEO resigns from the Everett company

Brian Mariotti resigned Sept. 1, six weeks after announcing he was taking a six-month sabbatical from the company.

Cash is used for a purchase at Molly Moon's Ice Cream in Edmonds, Washington on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Paper or plastic? Snohomish County may require businesses to take cash

County Council member Nate Nehring proposed an ordinance to ban cashless sales under $200. He hopes cities will follow suit.