Build a Plan to Protect Your Small Business During National Preparedness Month


By Chris Pilkerton,
man on the phone in front a store filled with rubble

When heavy rains were predicted for several South Carolina counties during the first week of October 2015, business owner Michael Marsha placed sandbags around his fabric store and hoped for the best.

Within 24 hours, a massive storm dumped more than eight inches of rain on Columbia, home to Forest Lake Fabrics. The 55-year-old family-owned business specializes in drapery, upholstery, artwork and lighting fixtures. The force of the floodwaters blasted a 20-foot hole in the rear wall. Bolts of expensive fabric were washed downstream as more than six feet of water swept through the store. The building was nearly destroyed, and Forest Lake Fabrics’ entire inventory, valued at $1 million, was ruined.

Marsha received a disaster loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which he used to replace inventory and lessen the effects of the next big storm. During the recovery phase, he considered how to prepare for the next big storm and decided to rebuild stronger. He hired builders who waterproofed the inside and outside walls with a heavy-duty paint that would prevent water from seeping into the building. They also elevated the building six feet and installed impact-rated protection for the windows and doors.

“We rebuilt making sure we’ll be prepared for future flooding,” Marsha said.

The SBA is committed to making sure America’s 30 million small businesses have the resources they need to recover in the aftermath of any disaster. Immediately on the ground following a disaster declaration, the SBA offers recovery assistance to individuals, nonprofits and businesses of all sizes in the form of low-interest loans.

But instead of wondering if your business can withstand the potential destruction caused by the next flood, wildfire, earthquake or hurricane, why not consider structural upgrades where possible. It’s also a good idea to make sure your disaster preparation plan is in place, tested, and updated as needed.

September is National Preparedness Month. Led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and sponsored by, this year’s theme is “Prepared, Not Scared.” The SBA has partnered with the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) to help businesses become more aware of their disaster risks while also helping them develop business continuity plans to recover and rebuild, with an eye on lessening the impact of the next disaster.

  • On Wednesday, Sept. 18 at 3 p.m. EDT, the SBA and IBHS will co-host a Twitter chat on business continuity and structural improvements and how they can reduce the risk of property losses. You can join the chat at #SBAchat.
  • On Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 2 p.m. EDT, SBA and IBHS will co-host a webinar that will share tips on how to fortify your property against natural hazards. Sign up for the webinar here.

Meanwhile, here are a few preparedness tips:

  • Look at the building where you do business, inside and out, to determine your potential vulnerabilities.
  • Do structural upgrades to protect your property, that can include:
    • Adding a retaining wall or a sump pump,
    • Choosing noncombustible materials for decks,
    • Sealing cracks,
    • Installing permanent hurricane shutters, and
    • Installing impact-rated windows.
  • Calculate the cost of having to shut down operations for a week, a month, or six months. Then investigate insurance options (like business interruption insurance) or build a cash reserve that will allow your company to stay open during the post-disaster recovery phase.

Visit for more information on how to prepare for disasters.

The entrepreneur who has a solid plan in place is more likely to stay in business after a disaster, protecting lives and supporting the economic recovery of the community.


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