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SBA tips for business disaster plans

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The Small Business Administration is urging businesses to adopt – or update – their disaster plans, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Some businesses did have a crisis preparedness plan," said SBA Region Eight communications director Christopher Chavez. "But they hadn't been updated in years."

Chavez said SBA is encouraging business owners to reassess and redevelop a workable plan that can be implemented on a moment's notice.

"Talk with your employees about what the plan is, and how it is going to be implemented," Chavez said. "In the end, if there is a tornado or a flood in your community, or another pandemic, trying to figure out if that plan is workable at that time is too late."

Chavez outlined some suggestions for a good emergency plan. He has about a half-dozen tips for small businesses. One is to have a crisis communications plan.

"That would include having current contact information for your employees, for vendors, and that you have a way to communicate with your customers," Chavez said.

Chavez said a lot of businesses, especially restaurants, had to close last year — some for weeks on end.

"A lot of customers didn't know if that business was going to reopen," Chavez said. "Many of those businesses didn't have a means of communicating with the public."

Another tip: Have a written chain of command.

"You may have had an owner," Chavez said. "But beyond that, there may have been no secondary manager or secondary supervisor. And the employees didn't know who to communicate with, so they didn't know if they should come into work."

Also: Have a business continuity plan.

"A business owner should identify essential functions," Chavez said. "A lot of people did not know what 'essential' was."

And Chavez said it’s important to identify supply-chains. He said that’s especially critical for restaurants.

"A lot of the suppliers of food products had to shut down," Chavez said. "Even if restaurants could keep their doors open, there were no suppliers. We suggest business owners prepare an alternative supply chain, and establish relationships with multiple vendors."

Chavez said it's also important for business owners to check their insurance coverage.

"I remember talking to many business owners — many in North Dakota — who thought their business resumption insurance would cover a pandemic," Chavez said. "They found out that was not the case."

And the last tip – evaluate your exposure.

"Know your community," Chavez said. "If you're living in Fargo, know you are susceptible to flooding."

Chavez said one of the things at the top of that list should be COVID-19.

"We still have that issue on-going," Chavez said.

Chavez said he hopes that through COVID-19 relief programs, such as the Paycheck Protection Act and the Restaurant Revitalization program, some businesses were able to survive.

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