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Being prepared for the worst is always a good plan

The good news: Fewer storms have been predicted for the 2015 hurricane season. The bad news: Predictions aren't guarantees, and Hurricane Andrew is a good example of why not to be lax in your business' planning and preparation for hurricanes and other disasters.

A "normal" hurricane season, per NOAA, has 12 named storms, six that become hurricanes and two that are classified as "major hurricanes." In April 1992, the World Research Center and Colorado State University predicted well below the "norm" with eight named storms, four that would become hurricanes and one that would be classified as a "major hurricane." Although the number of hurricanes during 1992 season was well below the norm, it proved to be the costliest season of the 20th century with Hurricane Andrew causing $25.6 billion in damage, making it the fifth-costliest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic.

How quickly your company is back in business following a disaster, such as a hurricane, will depend on emergency planning done today. With hurricane season just around the corner, now is the time to create or implement your hurricane preparedness plan. The following critical components should be included in your preparedness plan:

Resource management: Identify the resources needed for responding to emergencies, business operations continuity and communications during and after a storm. Bring together co-workers from all levels of your organization as a planning team. Consider the different types of disasters that could impact your company and the likelihood that they might occur. The risks faced by your organization will vary according to the size, location, and nature of your operations. Start by reviewing your business processes and identify operations critical to survival of your company.

Emergency response plan: Create plans to protect people and property. Provide emergency planning information to employees so they know what to do if there is an emergency. Include emergency information in newsletters, on your company intranet, in periodic employee emails, and on bulletin boards. Promote family disaster planning. Tools for developing a family disaster and communications plan can be found at ready.gov.

Crisis communications plan: Create procedures to communicate

with employees, stakeholders, and customers before, during and after a storm. Include social media strategies in your plan.

Business continuity Plan: steps and procedures that include strategies to overcome disruption of business operations. This plan should also include protection and recovery of information technology (computers, servers, software). Make a list of your customers and plan on ways to serve them during and after a disaster. Also, identify key suppliers, shippers, contractors, other resources that you interact with on a regular basis.

Employee assistance and support: Identify the needs of employees and families following an incident.

Once you have your plan created, ensure your employees are familiar with their role in the plan and conduct regularly scheduled education and training sessions. The Manatee Chamber takes our role in disaster preparedness and recovery very seriously. We'd love to give you more information, including sample preparedness plans, that can help your business and employees prepare.

A disaster preparedness course is also available online through Manatee County's Emergency Management Department at mymanatee.org.

Bob Bartz, president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, can be reached at BobB@ManateeChamber.com.

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