Businesses Need to Prepare for Natural Disasters - the Time is Now

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Shared from Ashley D. Bell, Region IV Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration 
Covering: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee

September is National Preparedness Month. I view this as not a celebration, but as a critical reminder for entrepreneurs across the Southeast of how important it is to be prepared in case of any natural disaster, whether it is a hurricane, tornado, wild fire, algae bloom – the list goes on. In order for a small business to survive a natural disaster, it must be prepared.

Here are a few tips for entrepreneurs to keep in mind, especially as we reach the peak of hurricane season across the Southeast:

  • Review your hazard and flood coverage to ensure your insurance policy is in effect before a storm hits.

  • Keep your insurance policy information as well as phone numbers for your insurance agent and the claims department handy.

  • Know whom you can call to help you clean/rebuild your business, and have a restoration plan in place so you can focus on the task of quickly reopening your business.

  • Maintain an updated list of all your employees’ contact numbers and email addresses to ensure safety, as well as keeping everyone in the loop about the recovery progress.

  • Obtain a line of credit or have enough cash to run your business for at least three months.

  • Move your important business records, personal memorabilia and anything that’s irreplaceable to an offsite location. Save as much as you possibly can to the cloud.

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Currently, there are 11 disasters declared by the President or the SBA across the Southeast Region that are eligible for loan assistance. These declared disasters range from Hurricane Michael to gas leaks and flooding incidents. A complete listing of open disaster declarations may be found here with pertinent information such as disaster assistance deadlines.

Please keep in mind that the SBA provides low-interest loans and assistance to allow affected businesses, homeowners and renters to rebuild and recover.

Specifically, the SBA:

  • Provides loan assistance up to $200,000 to help homeowners repair or replace their damaged or destroyed primary residence.

  • Provides up to $40,000 in loan assistance to help homeowners and renters replace damaged or destroyed personal property such as furniture, clothing, appliances and vehicles.

  • Provides up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged real estate, leasehold improvements, furniture and fixtures, inventory, and machinery and equipment for businesses of all sizes and private non-profit organizations.

  • Offers Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) to small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, and most private non-profit organizations that have suffered economic injury caused by a disaster. These loans provide working capital to a business or organization until normal operations can resume.

Please stay prepared, and you are always welcome to reach out to the SBA for assistance at www.sba.gov/disaster. Our job is to help you build a lasting business for many generations, no matter what nature has in store for us.

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James Benson, Chief Communications Officer

James Benson is a career public relations executive with over 38 years’ experience communicating with diverse audiences in a wide variety of venues. A retired Air Force officer, he spent the latter half of his Air Force career as a public affairs officer enjoying a series of one-of-a-kind positions with equally unique communication challenges. From arranging press conferences, to producing news and training videos, to explaining research, development and contracting issues to the media, he enjoyed tuning in to each audience to ensure the message was received and understood. As the marketing director of a mid-sized hospital, Mr. Benson directed the advertising and promotion of membership and referral programs and community health fairs, conducted outreach efforts to rural health care clinics and community education programs, created a trade show display and produced and hosted a radio health program. At the Department of Veterans Affairs, Mr. Benson served as a senior public affairs executive responding to media requests, preparing senior officials and subject matter experts for media interviews, hosting a magazine-style television program with benefit information for Veterans and providing emcee support for numerous department and public ceremonies and special events. As an adjunct professor, Mr. Benson has taught classes in communications for the past 10 years. Currently, Mr. Benson is providing strategic communications, media relations and marketing support to B & G Educational Innovations, LLC, makers of ReaLifeSim clinical simulation training products