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Businesses need advance planning to defend against disasters

July 1, 2016
Area dealers largely sidestepped tornado-producing storms that roared through north-central Illinois on June 22. Thunderstorms battered the Chicago area while at least seven tornadoes swept through portions of Grundy, Iroquois, LaSalle, Lee and Livingston counties.
If the reverse occurred, would your dealership be prepared?
Having an emergency preparedness plan in place is as important to the survival of a small business as its business plan. Consider how a natural, human-caused or even public health issue disruption as the Zika virus could affect employees, customers, and the workplace. Would business operations continue?
Consider the following questions and checklist for developing an emergency preparedness plan:
1. How vulnerable would your business be if a disaster or other emergency were to occur?
• Know your region.
• Identify external emergency response resources.
2. What is your plan to protect the business and its employees before, during and after an emergency?
• Identify a planning committee
• Obtain necessary safety equipment.
• Write a plan.
• Develop a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP).
3. What can we do to integrate emergency preparedness procedures into our workplace culture?
• Train employees.
• Obtain needed equipment and supplies.
• Practice your plan. Practice makes perfect.
• Encourage personal preparedness among employees.
• Help your community get prepared.
The U.S. Small Business Administration also shares steps for dealerships to develop a plan to protect their employees, lessen the financial impact of disasters, and re-open the business quickly after a disaster. See
Having an emergency communication plan also is helpful. Here are a few easy steps to start:
1. Understand how to receive emergency alerts and warnings.  Make sure all employees are able to get alerts about an emergency from local officials. Check with your local emergency management agency to see what is available in your area, and learn more about alerts by visiting
2. Discuss business plans for disasters that may affect your area and plan where to go. Plan together in advance so that every employee understands where to go during a different type of disaster, such as a tornado or fire.  
3. Collect information. Create a paper copy of the contact information for your business that includes:
• phone (office and mobile)
• email
• social media
• medical facilities, doctors, service providers
4. Practice your plan. Hold staff meetings to review your emergency plans, communication plans and meeting place after a disaster, and then practice, just like you would a fire drill.
Heavy rains don’t always lead to floods, but employees should remember to avoid walking or driving through accumulated waters. Just six inches of moving water can knock down a pedestrian, and two feet of water can sweep away a vehicle.
And don’t forget about water in another state of matter: snow. Cold weather equipment should be tested in advance, and have contact information for all employees and vendors.
Storm watches call for employees to be alert for a storm that is likely. If a storm warning is issued, it is time to take action. If a disaster strikes, return to the area only after officials have declared the area safe.