Planning Ahead: Your Small Business Safety Checklist

When disaster strikes, small businesses can take a hit or even go under. Read and print this checklist to keep your company afloat no matter what comes your way.

Here’s a sobering fact: an estimated 25 percent of small businesses never reopen after a catastrophe. There are many reasons for this problem, of course, but one of the most easily fixed is a widespread lack of preparation among small-business owners.

In this article, we’ll walk you through a simple safety checklist to prepare for disaster and offer advice about what to do if the unthinkable happens.


Any good disaster-prep program starts long before the fateful day. Here’s what you can do to be ready:

  1. Purchase disaster insurance. This may include property insurance, business interruption insurance and even liability insurance. Many small-business owners stitch together a comprehensive safety net out of these coverages to help avoid financial calamity.
  2. Back up your data regularly. Online services like Carbonite can automatically keep your essential files secure in an offsite location.
  3. Invest in safety equipment. First aid kits, defibrillators, flashlights and other equipment may allow you to keep employees safe until help arrives.
  4. Practice, practice, practice. Fire drills aren’t just for school kids — they can save lives. Make sure all your people know where to go, whom to contact and how to conduct themselves in the event of flood, fire, earthquake or hurricane.
  5. Make a plan and circulate it. This is the big one. A good disaster-safety plan should include emergency escape routes, phone trees, contact numbers, special preparation for disabled employees and an agreed-upon meeting place for all employees.


Job One in the midst of any disaster is to secure the people who work for you. Account for your employees immediately, tend to the injured and set your disaster plan in motion.

If you’ve defined and practiced this procedure, your employees will know right away who’s in charge and what their assigned tasks are. Contact the authorities — you should have a list of the appropriate local numbers clearly posted — and move everyone to safety as fast as possible. Only then is it time to call family members to let them know you’re okay.


One of the most important parts of disaster planning is creating a continuity plan (i.e., how you’ll stay open for business following a catastrophic event). Experts recommend securing an alternate location ahead of time and contacting all the vendors and services that keep you running. These may include banks, Web hosting providers and even material suppliers.

Rebuilding Following a Disaster

When the dust clears, your job is just beginning. Recovering from a disaster is no easy task for individuals, but your responsibilities as a business owner range from maintaining revenue to soothing jittery clients to supplying mental-health services if necessary.

The good news is that with this safety checklist, a bit of planning and a level head, you can greatly minimize the effects of any disaster.

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