small-business-continuity-plan|Photo Courtesy ofDepositphotos.com the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy and other recent natural disasters, small businesses aren’t getting the message. A new survey finds 70 percent don’t expect to experience a similar disaster and nearly half have no plan to ensure business continuity.

The survey of 200 small businesses, sponsored by FedEx and the American Red Cross, found that Superstorm Sandy inspired only 10 percent of respondents to take new steps to prepare for disasters, according to a press release on

“Developing an emergency preparedness plan is one of the most important strategic decisions a small business owner will make,” says Tom Heneghan, manager of preparedness for the Red Cross. And yet SMBs are more likely to rely on the bare minimum of disaster planning, hoping they’ll never have to use it. “People know they should do it, but it’s not always at the top of the list,” Heneghan says.

Here are five preparation steps the Red Cross recommends for all small business owners.

  1. Purchase essential safety equipment: Standard items include fire extinguishers and smoke detectors, first-aid kits and defibrillators. However, businesses may also need industry-specific supplies for disaster safety. Employees must be able to easily access and use these tools.
  2. Plan emergency communications: Every business needs to communicate with emergency officials, employees, suppliers, vendors and customers in the event of a disaster. Useful tools include an emergency number, a calling tree and text message alerts.
  3. Prepare evacuation routes and shelter: Make a plan for getting everyone from your facility to a safe location. Be sure to consider the needs of employees with disabilities and medical conditions.
  4. Back up essential business data: Identify records and documents necessary for core business functions and store them securely using data backup tools.Many people wait until a disaster strikes their business before they begin backing up data. In other words, they have to lose their data first, or be really close to someone who has. But learning the hard way isn’t good business practice, and it’s unnecessary.
  5. Develop a continuity of operations plan: In the event of a disaster, a business needs a path to follow to maintain or regain operations. Steps include spelling out the most critical business functions and which staff is responsible for them, and planning how the business will resume operations if the facility is damaged or unusable.

Small business owners need to take the time to plan and implement this 5-step business continuity plan. The time they spend preparing will ensure that they can weather the storms or other disasters that can spell the death of a small business.

We want to hear from you. Which of these five preparation steps have you implemented? Which other steps do you think many businesses overlook? Let us know by posting in the comments section!