5 Steps to Create a Disaster Preparedness Plan for Your Business

5 Steps to Create a Disaster Preparedness Plan for Your Business

Running a small business is already a big challenge. With all the day-to-day tasks you have to juggle, you might place disaster preparedness low on your list of priorities.

The reality is, a disaster could devastate your small business. A severe wind storm could rip the roof off your shop. An earthquake could destroy your entire plant. A hurricane could leave your small business in ruins.

If you don't have a disaster preparedness plan to protect your business and employees, not to mention one to help you rebuild after a disaster, then you're putting your business at risk. Fortunately, preparing for a disaster, big or small, isn't as difficult as you might think. A few key steps can help ensure that you, your employees and your business can survive.

1. Put your people first

When planning for a disaster, focus on your people first. This means coming up with a written disaster plan that lists exactly what your employees are to do should a hurricane, earthquake, flood or other emergency hit. This plan should spell out an evacuation route for your workers and set up a meeting place where everyone should gather following a disaster.

An emergency plan should also identify which employees will have specific jobs during a disaster. Who is responsible for guiding workers out of the building? Who runs evacuation training sessions throughout the year? And who will grab a list of workers so that you can check that all your employees are accounted for at the agreed-upon meeting place?

Put together a first-aid kit that is located conveniently in your business. Depending on the damage done in a disaster, you might need this kit to treat minor injuries, cuts or burns. Make sure your kit also includes items such as flashlights, blankets and batteries.

Finally, make sure that you have maps of your business that identify stairwells, fire escapes and exit doors. You might need access to alternative exists should your building’s main doors be blocked.

Keep this information together in an area that is easy to reach. You don’t want to be scrambling for your written disaster plan during the chaos of a disaster.

2. Protect your records

A disaster could damage or destroy your business' records and important financial forms. Fortunately, you can take steps to safeguard these documents.

The IRS recommends that you receive as many of your important business documents by email today. This way, you can easily retrieve them after a disaster. The IRS also recommends that business owners back up their records and copy key files onto a CD or DVD. The Insurance Information Institute recommends that business owners keep up-to-date copies of important records and documents in a safe deposit box with an area bank. 

Then there's electronic data. You might store most of this in the cloud already, but if you don't, make sure to back up your locally stored records on a regular basis, saving them on an external hard drive or CD. If you don't, a disaster that destroys your computers could also wipe out your company's most important data. 

3. Chart your valuables 

A disaster can also damage or destroy your business' most important, and expensive, equipment, furniture and electronics. That's why the IRS recommends that you make a record of your priciest valuables and store it in a safe place away from your business. This way, if your business is damaged or destroyed, you'll be able to retrieve this record. 

This is important. You’ll need your record of valuables when working with your insurance company after a disaster. Any information you can provide will speed the process of getting the correct payout from your insurer. A written and visual record of your valuables is the evidence you need to prove just how much you lost in a disaster. 

Making a record is a simple task. The IRS recommends going from room to room of your business and jotting down the equipment, furniture and electronics that fill these spaces, along with your estimate of their value. The IRS also advises that you take photos of your most expensive items or videotape your walk from room to room. Save these photos or videos in a safe space, one that isn't in or near your business. 

4. Review your insurance coverage 

If your business is destroyed, will you have enough insurance coverage to rebuild? If you don’t know, it’s time to meet with your insurance agent. 

Don’t wait until after disaster strikes to review your insurance coverage. In fact, the Insurance Information Institute recommends that you review your business insurance coverage on a regular basis. 

When reviewing, look at the property insurance portion of your business policy. Make sure your building and its contents are insured for current replacement prices. That computer you bought five years ago might not be worth much today. But if it is destroyed, you’ll have to buy a new one at today’s prices. That can be expensive. You want an insurance policy that reimburses you for what replacing that computer will cost today. 

Business interruption insurance is another key coverage. Your business might be shut down for several weeks or months following a disaster. Can your company survive the loss of business from this? Business interruption insurance will pay out to cover the income your company loses when it is working to reopen. 

5. Know your resources for post-disaster financial assistance 

Your business might be eligible for financial help after a disaster from several sources. The Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture provide loans with low interest rates to businesses that need to replace damaged or destroyed equipment and other assets after a disaster.

These loans can help you replace everything from machinery and equipment to personal property and real estate. Learn more about the Small Business Administration’s loans here and the loans offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture here. You can also contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, for financial help here

11 Best Education Tools to Boost Your Programming Skills

Continuing education is a necessity for every tech professional. You need to stay abreast of the changes in programming that are currently going on in order to stay competitive and up-to-date. And, as there are a lot of things to keep track of — including new languages, hardware systems and approaches — you want to maximize your time while learning.

So what are some good resources you can use to get the information you need? To find out, we asked entrepreneurs from YEC to weigh in on their preferences for continuing education tools, courses, or platforms tech professionals can use to improve their programming skills. Here is what they advise trying:

1. CodinGame

CodinGame is a great platform that mixes learning with gaming so you can brush up on your skills and have fun at the same time. You can compete against your co-workers in multiplayer programming games and play in online programming competitions, too. - Blair Williams, MemberPress 

2. Google

We have a development agency which requires non-stop continual education to keep our standards up. We implement 10 percent time, which means all team members are asked to use at least 10 percent of their time for continuing education. As for the platforms they use, Google is a hell of a platform for upcoming technology. If there is a fine-tuned course on something, that means you are already pretty late. - James Guldan, Vision Tech Team

3. GitHub Learning Lab

GitHub has a learning lab on their website that has come in handy. Whether you're looking to learn more about how GitHub works for shared programming or need some markdown tips, their resources are great for keeping up with the current programming trends. - John Turner, https://www.seedprod.com/

4. In-Person Conversations

Get out from behind the computer and talk to people! Attend meetups, conferences and hackathons, and have conversations with the programmers out there teaching the latest approaches. The people that are out talking about programming love to chat about all kinds of intricate details you can't get online. They can also answer your questions, so you immediately know if this latest thing is for you. - Monica Snyder, Birdsong 

5. Live Webinars

I ask my team to devote and report one to two hours per week for training, and this is mostly done by attending live online webinars. As a founder of a digital marketing agency focused on SEO and SEM, I identify specific free webinars for my team to attend that are hosted by the leaders in our space. I need my team on the cutting edge of Google trends and updates. - Matthew Capala, Alphametic 

6. Lynda.com

Lynda.com is a great site to learn almost anything that requires a computer. From advanced coding classes to UX design courses, they have a wide range of course selections to help you learn almost anything. This is a great perk to give software developers so they are encouraged to continue learning. - Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights 

7. Local Hackathons

There’s more to programming than textbook theories and languages, so hackathons are a great way to test and improve your skills and adaptability in real-world situations, while learning from others at the same time. - Sam Saxton, Paragon Stairs

8. Online Communities

One of the most helpful platforms I have found is online communities. Not only are online communities typically free, they are also usually bustling with cutting-edge info, sometimes even before other types of media catch on. Whether you're a .Net or PHP programmer, online communities, such as subreddits, also offer exciting opportunities to pick the brains of experts and others in your field. - Shu Saito, Fact Retriever 

9. Treehouse

Treehouse is our favorite tool for continuous learning. We give our team free access so they can learn and stay up to date on the latest technology trends. It's awesome because you can see what your team is learning and what they gravitate to learn, which makes it easier to identify who to delegate certain projects to. - Jared Atchison, WPForms

10. Udemy

Udemy always has the latest languages and courses on all of them. The great thing is that if you enroll in let's say an iOS class, the instructor may keep updating it as new updates come out, without you having to purchase another class. They are also usually well-reviewed so you can get a preview of what to expect. There are also Q&As in almost every section of the lesson, which really helps. - Adelaida Sofia Diaz-Roa, Nomo FOMO 

11. YouTube

I like being able to watch videos about whatever language I want to keep up with, fast-forward through what I know, and rewind if I need to rewatch something. Find some YouTubers that teach the language you want to keep up with and subscribe to their channel. This way it will stay top of mind any time you log into YouTube. - Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

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