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Hurricane Do's and Don'ts for Businesses



When Hurricane Irene rakes the Eastern Seaboard this weekend, will your business be ready for the storm and its aftermath? There are a number of last-minute actions that can help business owners minimize the damage and protect their livelihoods, a disaster planning company says.

These recommendations can make a critical difference when it comes to minimizing business interruption , said Mark Lewis, vice president of InStar, which provides disaster response, insurance, restoration and reconstruction services for businesses.

"When disaster strikes, the company that reopens its doors first is the most likely to survive," Lewis said. "No matter how loyal your customers are, they can't afford to wait for you when the competition is up and running."

Here is some of the advice the company offers its clients:

Take inventory. If a disaster appears imminent, it is critical to have a recent account of your inventory to provide the insurer. Make several copies, both physical and electronic, and keep them in different locations.

Review your insurance policy. It may or may not be too late to add more coverage, but it can save a lot of time and headaches to know in advance what is and isn't in your policy.

Stage a drill. It's never too late for this one. Make sure every person knows his or her role, knows the location of water, electrical and gas shutoffs and has emergency contact numbers. Also, make sure all employee contact information is up to date with cellphones and email addresses.

Get your camera ready. With lots of batteries. Perhaps the most helpful thing property managers can do right after disaster strikes is to photograph the damage, assuming that it is safe to do so. This includes capturing initial floodwater levels, roof damage, structural damage, and downed power lines and trees.

Back up vital computer data. When you're removing assets to a safer location, don't forget your digital assets as well. The information on a computer is often many times more valuable than the computer itself.

InStar also suggests several "don'ts" for companies with limited time.

Don't waste time taping windows. It doesn't work.

And don't delay putting plywood over your windows because you don't want customers to think you're already closed. A handmade "We're Open!" sign solves that problem. Everyone understands a hurricane is coming, and no one will hold it against you.

"Of course, it's better not to wait until the last minute to prepare for a natural disaster," Lewis said. "Given a little more time, our first and foremost advice is to ensure you have sufficient insurance coverage for wind-, water- and earthquake-related damages. In addition, make sure you have adequate business-interruption insurance, not just to cover your losses but to help defray the costs of a temporary business location if necessary."