April 23, 2024
Prepare for the Unthinkable

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Step 6

Prepare for the Unthinkable

| 6/2/2023

You may believe that everything is under control at your workplace, but natural disasters can happen in a heartbeat. Take proactive measures to protect your people and property.

Whether at home or in your workplace, when things are going smoothly, it’s easy to believe that you have everything under control. But do you, really? At this very moment — and without so much as a hint of disaster to come — another pandemic could be brewing; cybercriminals could be stealing your data; and/or that tiny blip you noticed on yesterday’s radar screen could have easily worked its way up to tropical storm status. Yikes!

If you’ve lived in Florida for more than a year or two, you know the importance of proactive preparation. So, before disaster strikes:

KNOW WHAT YOU’RE UP AGAINST
There’s a big difference between prepping for a Category 5 hurricane and finding where to get a COVID shot. Both are important, but hurricanes take precedence. Don’t wait until a storm threatens to make whatever preparations are necessary to ensure your personal safety. Use winter and spring as the optimal seasons to install impact resistant windows; map evacuation routes; stockpile water, batteries, canned goods, and other essentials; and back up any important computer files to store off-site or on the cloud for easy access.

CREATE CONTINGENCY PLANS
Suppose a hurricane levels your workplace … How will you communicate with customers and suppliers? Can your employees work from home? How will they home-school their children and/or care for elderly family members? Remember, too, that it’s not just storms you need to worry about. There’s violence and civil unrest; sinkholes and lightning strikes; train derailments and toxic chemical spills. Maybe even another pandemic. All of these mostly unforeseen events pose questions that should be addressed well in advance of any disaster.

PROTECT YOUR PEOPLE FIRST, THEN YOUR PROPERTY
Buildings can be replaced, people can’t. So prepare yourself and your employees for the likelihood of evacuation to safer ground by providing them with contingency plans well in advance. Consider including written directions to shelters, hospitals and other emergency services; post emergency phone numbers and contacts within easy reach of all employees.

RETURNING TO NORMAL
Once the immediate threat is in your rear-view mirror — the storm has passed, the pandemic is contained — you’ll no doubt be chomping at the bit to resume normal operations … that is, until your insurance adjuster reminds you that it may take weeks for your claim to be processed.

Say what? You have repairs to make and employees to pay. How will you — and they — survive in the meantime?

With help from the Florida SBDC Network. Immediately following disasters, SBDCs across Florida serve as primary contacts for processing and submitting the paperwork needed to secure short-term, zero-interest Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loans.

If your business has been physically or economically impacted by a hurricane or other disaster, a bridge loan can be your first step to recovery by giving you ready access to working capital and helping you “bridge the gap” between time of impact to the point where longer-term solutions such as sufficient profits, federal disaster assistance and/or insurance proceeds become available.

 

Cybersecurity

We’ve all grown to love the convenience of our computers, and perhaps never more so than in the midst of a pandemic. While many worksites were shuttered for as long as two years, their employees were still able to work, albeit from home. On the downside, however, there is this: With so many people working from home, phishing and ransom attacks are up exponentially and costing companies big bucks. According to Hiscox Cyber Readiness Report 2022, a single incident — like a data breach, malware, ransomware or DDoS attack — costs companies in the U.S. a median $18,000. Furthermore, the Hiscox report predicts that the cost of data breaches will rise from $3 trillion in a year to more than $5 trillion annually by 2024.

While you wait for prices to stabilize and some form of normalcy to return, here are five simple measures your company can take right now to boost its cybersecurity profile:

01 / Be proactive. Equip all computers with antivirus software/anti-spyware and update often. Provide firewall security for your internet connection. Secure, encrypt and hide your Wi-Fi networks.

02 / Train employees in security principles. Establish written policies for handling and protecting sensitive data using mobile devices and reporting lost or stolen equipment. Hold employees accountable if they violate these policies.

03 / Limit employee access to data and information as well as authority to install software. Create a separate user account for each employee and restrict administrative privileges to trusted IT staff and key personnel only. Use multifactor authentication (password + additional information) to gain entry. Change passwords often.

04 / Make backups and duplicates of critical data automatically if possible. Be sure to include word processing documents, electronic spreadsheets, databases and financial files. Store copies off-site or on the cloud.

05 / Control physical access. Create individual accounts for each employee and require strong passwords; change passwords at least every three months. Lock computers when unattended.

 

On-site Recovery Assistance

Whenever and wherever there’s a disaster in our state, the Florida SBDC Network deploys its Disaster Mobile Assistance Centers into communities with the greatest need so that seriously affected business owners can receive on-site assistance quickly and close at hand. Staffed by highly experienced FSBDC consultants, these facilities serve to answer questions, create short-term recovery plans and help clients in need of monetary assistance complete their loan applications with ease.

 

Advanced Protection

Insurance is available to protect against almost any business risk. Consult with an insurance agent to determine which of the following types of insurance you will need, then compare terms and prices to decide what’s right for you.

FOR YOUR PROPERTY

General Liability Protects a business against financial loss resulting from bodily injury, property damage, medical expenses, libel, slander, lawsuits and settlement bonds or judgments.

Product Liability Protects against financial loss resulting from a defective product that causes injury or bodily harm.

Professional Liability Protects against financial loss resulting from malpractice, errors and negligence.

Commercial Property Protects against loss and damage of company property due to fire, smoke, wind and hailstorms, civil disobedience, vandalism and other such events.

Home-Based Business Insurance A rider added to your homeowners insurance that offers some protection for business equipment and liability coverage for third-party injuries.

Business Owners Policy Combines all of the typical coverage options in a single package at a reduced price; generally available only to businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

ADDITIONAL OPTIONS

Flood: Property insurance does not cover damage from floodwaters, whether from rivers, lakes or oceans; however, business owners may insure their building and contents for up to $500,000 each through the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Windstorm: Available through Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state-created insurance provider, or private insurers; type of construction, size, location and proximity to water determine cost and availability.

Business Interruption: Pays for ongoing expenses such as rent, utilities and, in some cases, payroll when a business must close due to an insured property loss — i.e., in the aftermath of a hurricane.

FOR YOUR PEOPLE

Directors and Officers Liability Protects the company and individual executives should employees, shareholders, government agencies and/or others sue directors and officers over financial losses due to alleged company mismanagement.

Key Employee Protects a business following the death of an individual considered vital to the firm’s success. Similar to a life insurance policy, except the death benefit is paid to the company rather than to the individual’s family.

Workers’ Compensation Florida law requires employers with four or more full- or part-time employees to have workers’ compensation coverage for their employees. Sole proprietors and partners are not considered employees; corporate officers are, unless exempt.

FOR YOUR IDEAS

Intangible Assets Your company’s reputation, name recognition, know-how and/or creative ideas have no physical existence, but they have commercial value and should be protected by one of the following:

Patents A patent is a property right granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to an inventor to exclude others from making, using or selling the invention without permission for a specified period of time. Visit www.uspto.gov for information and filing instructions.

Trademarks Words, symbols, names, internet domain names, packaging and labeling that distinguish one company’s products from another may be registered as trademarks through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or, for more limited state protection, through the Florida Department of State, Division of Corporations.

Copyrights An author’s exclusive right to use his or her original writing, musical composition, artistic designs and other works of expression is automatic when a work is created and lasts 70 years after death. Official registration is optional in most cases; for protection, simply add the word “copyright” or ©, first year of publication and name of copyright owner(s) at the top of the page.

 

Go Portable Now!

A workplace emergency can happen in an instant, which is no time to start gathering documents and supplies. Do your gathering now while you are clear-headed and well before there’s an emergency declaration. When you’ve gathered what you need, secure it all inside a water-and-fireproof box that you lock and store in an off-site location.

Here’s what you should include:

  • Emergency contact lists of employees, suppliers, vendors, key customers and repair services
  • Bank records
  • Emergency cash
  • Insurance policies and agent contacts
  • Disaster recovery plans
  • A list of bills that regularly need to be paid
  • Backups of important computer files

 

Put this in writing ahead of the storm:

  • Directions to shelters, hospitals and other emergency services
  • Post-emergency phone numbers
  • Update emergency contacts and essential medical info
  • Now post it in a safe place for all to see.

Tags: Florida Small Business, Getting Started

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