Disaster Readiness : How Prepared are You?

Disaster readiness is an important part of running a small business. The Internal Revenue Service encourages taxpayers to safeguard their records. Some simple steps can help taxpayers and businesses protect financial and tax records in case of disasters.

Listed below are tips for individuals and businesses on preparing for a disaster.

Take Advantage of Paperless Recordkeeping for Financial and Tax Records

Many people receive bank statements and documents by e-mail. This method is an outstanding way to secure financial records. Important tax records such as W-2s, tax returns, and other paper documents can be scanned into an electronic format.

Be sure you back up your electronic files and store them in a safe place. Making duplicates and keeping them in a separate location is a good business practice. Other options include copying files onto a CD or DVD. Also, many retail stores sell computer software packages that you can use for recordkeeping.

When choosing a place to keep your important records, convenience to your home should not be your primary concern. Remember, a disaster that strikes your home is also likely to affect other facilities nearby, making quick retrieval of your records difficult and maybe even impossible.

Document Valuables and Business Equipment

The IRS has disaster loss workbooks for individuals ( Publication 584, Casualty, Disaster, and Theft Loss Workbook) and businesses ( Publication 584-B, Business Casualty, Disaster, and Theft Loss Workbook) that can help you compile a room-by-room list of your belongings or business equipment. This will help you recall and prove the market value of items for insurance and casualty loss claims.

One option is to photograph or videotape the contents of your home and/or business, especially items of greater value. You should store the photos with a friend or family member who lives away from the geographic area at risk.

Check on Fiduciary Bonds

Employers who use payroll service providers should ask the provider if they have a fiduciary bond in place. The bond could protect the employer in the event of default by the payroll service provider.

Continuity of Operations Planning for Businesses

How quickly your company can get back to business after a disaster often depends on emergency planning done today. Start planning now to improve the likelihood that your company will survive and recover. Review your emergency plans annually. Just as your business changes over time, so do your preparedness needs. When you hire new employees or when there are changes in how your company functions, you should update your plans and inform your people.

There are real benefits to being prepared for disasters. The following preparedness strategies are common to all disasters. You plan only once, and are able to apply your plan to all types of hazards.

Get informed about hazards and emergencies and learn what to do for specific hazards.

Develop an emergency plan.

Learn where to seek shelter from all types of hazards.

Back up your computer data systems regularly.

Decide how you will communicate with employees, customers, and others.

Use cell phones, walkie-talkies, or other devices that do not rely on electricity as a backup to your telecommunications system.

Collect and assemble a disaster supplies kit. Include a portable generator.

Identify the community warning systems and evacuation routes.

Include required information from the community and school plans.

Practice and maintain your plan.

Update Emergency Plans

Emergency plans should be reviewed annually. Personal and business situations change over time and so do preparedness needs. Individual taxpayers should make sure they are saving documents everybody should keep including such things as W-2s, home closing statements, and insurance records. When employers hire new employees or when a company or organization changes functions, plans should be updated accordingly and employees should be informed of the changes.

Make sure you have a means of receiving severe weather information; if you have a NOAA Weather Radio, put fresh batteries in it. Make sure you know what you should do if threatening weather approaches.

Looking for help coming up with a disaster readiness, contact an SBDC Counselor today 

Where to Find Us

Iowa Western Community College

2700 College Road

121 Ashley Hall (Park in Ashley Hall Visitor Parking)

Council Bluffs, Iowa 51503

712-325-3350

Sue Pitts - spitts@iwcc.edu

Michael Mitilier - mmitilier@iwcc.edu

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Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S Small Business Administration (SBA). All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA