Hartford, Conn. (Sept. 8, 2003) -- Nearly all small and midsize businesses have at least one plan in place to deal with emergencies, according to a national survey by the Hartford Financial Services Group.

The survey showed that 97 percent of SMBs have at least one plan to protect themselves from natural disasters, workplace violence or other emergencies.

The most common emergency prevention procedure used by businesses (84 percent) is backing up data and records, usually by copying them onto discs or tapes. A smaller number of businesses e-mail files to another location and some also print out paper copies. Significantly fewer -- 61 percent -- have procedures for reporting acts of workplace violence, 53 percent have taken measures to prevent unauthorized entry into buildings, and 44 percent have plans protecting their operations and employees in the event of natural disasters.

The Hartford offers some guidelines business owners should follow to protect their businesses and develop emergency preparedness plans:

  • Plan in Advance -- Assign an emergency coordinator to develop and maintain your emergency plan. --
  • Establish and practice evacuation plans, including primary and secondary routes, for a fast exit. Assign specific gathering places for evacuated employees to meet.
  • Develop a contingency plan for continued business operations, including routing inventories and deliveries to another facility or location. --
  • Keep updated lists of emergency contacts and telephone numbers. This list should also include your employees, insurance agent, customers, suppliers and distributors. Store a copy off site. --
  • Have on hand a first aid kit, flashlight with fresh batteries, battery- powered radio, waterproof plastic bags and covers, camera with film, a tool kit and an appropriate supply of bottled water and nonperishable food. --
  • Back up critical electronic data and programs at least once a day, and store copies of this data, along with software programs, in a location separate from your facility.
  • For unauthorized entry -- Use picture or other positive identification cards for employees. Reduce the number of entrances into the building. Require visitors to sign-in upon entry and make sure an authorized employee accompanies them during their visit.
  • To minimize violence -- Train managers and supervisors on warning signs that potentially violent employees may exhibit. These can include significant changes in personality, personal care, personal habits and appearance, as well as in social interaction.
  • Provide vulnerable employees (receptionists, customer relations representatives, human resources personnel and others that have similar front-line visibility) with a discreet way of alerting for help, such as a hidden alarm button.

-- WebCPA staff

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