The Hartford: Prepare for Catastrophes of All Kinds

In the wake of Sept. 11th, emergency preparedness takes on a new urgency for American business. Many companies, especially small businesses, are scrambling to ensure that they can survive a similar disaster.

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In the wake of Sept. 11th, emergency preparedness has taken on a new urgency for American business. Many companies, especially small businesses, are scrambling to ensure that they can survive a similar disaster.

A well-conceived emergency plan is crucial to every company''s business strategy, say experts at The Hartford Financial Services Group, one of the nation''s leading insurers of small businesses.

"Businesses at the World Trade Center that went through the 1993 bombing understood the importance of adequate planning for a catastrophe," said John Kauffman, director of loss control training for The Hartford. "As a result, many of the improvements that were made helped thousands of workers evacuate to safety before the towers collapsed."

At a recent seminar in Stamford, Conn., loss control experts from The Hartford presented a primer in emergency preparedness to small business owners, many of whom had seen their business severely affected by the tragedy at the World Trade Center.

Kauffman noted that according to studies conducted by the Gartner Group in recent years, 60 percent of businesses are under prepared for disasters, and 40 percent of companies that experience a disaster go out of business within five years.

Key to effective emergency planning, said Kauffman, is to be prepared for any possibility, particularly natural disasters. "While concerns about future terrorist attacks understandably are foremost on people''s minds, business owners still are more likely to face fire or a natural disaster such as a fire, flood, hurricane or an ice storm," he said.

"Business owners need to look at every possibility," he added.

A comprehensive plan should include employee safety, business continuity, communication strategies and hazard assessment. The Hartford''s experts offer businesses these tips for drafting an effective emergency preparedness plan:

  • Establish an evacuation plan. Make sure exits are clearly marked, well lit and clear of obstacles. Practice evacuation drills at least annually.
  • Keep updated lists of emergency telephone numbers - fire, police, insurance agent, public health, utilities, and disaster relief agencies - and those for employees, customers, suppliers and distributors. Store copies off-site.
  • Keep emergency supplies on-site, such as a first-aid kit, flashlight with fresh batteries, battery-powered radio, plastic bags and covers, camera with film, tool kit, supply of bottled water and non-perishable food.
  • Store vital records, such as financial statements, account information, blueprints, product lists and specifications in a fire-resistant and burglar-resistant safe.
  • Back-up computer files daily and store back-up copies in an off-site location.
  • Regularly update all anti-virus software. Install on each employee''s PC and in all firewalls and e-mail servers.
  • Review your property insurance policy with your agent.

by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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