Get Ready for Emergencies

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Look out for Andrea. That's the message as hurricane season officially kicks off Friday. Still, more than half of small-business owners aren't worried about Andrea, or Barry or Chantal for that matter, the names of the first few storms this season, and 71 percent don't have any kind of plan, according to a TNS NFO study for Office Depot.

That might be a bad idea, considering that storm watchers are forecasting an active season. Even if hurricanes aren't a particular threat to your business, being prepared for any kind of emergency is a safe bet. About a quarter of small companies will have some kind of crisis, from hurricanes to the sudden death of an executive, according to the Association of Small Business Development Centers. About 43 percent of firms that confront such an ordeal without a backup plan never reopen, the group says.

Preparations don't have to be elaborate or costly, says Jon Toigo, head of research firm Toigo Partners International and the author of several books on disaster recovery. A few simple tips will ensure that whether it's a storm or a building fire, small companies will be able to get back on their feet much more quickly.

Put together a contact list of employees, key suppliers, and emergency phone numbers. Be sure to include information for employees' families and suppliers outside the area that are not as likely to be affected by a storm or other misadventure that hits your area.

Establish a clear communication procedure. Meet with employees to figure who is in charge of what and how to communicate instructions quickly. Be sure to test out the plan.

Organize supplies, from flashlights and water to cellphone chargers.

Back up files on a regular basis. Put them on disks stored away from your office. Print out key files in case of a complete power outage.

emergency planning