In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, I couldn’t help but ask myself if we were experiencing more natural disasters in recent years than ever before.  The answer is that we are; in fact, we’re breaking records. Take 2011. USA Today reported that last year, the US endured 12 billion-dollar weather and climate disasters, breaking the record of nine set in 2008. The aggregate damage from the 12 events was approximately $52 billion.

flood signWhatever you want to blame it on – global warming or just crazy weather – the fact is that disaster can strike anywhere at any time and you need to protect your small business.  Unfortunately, many small business owners are not prepared for natural disaster. According to the Hartford, 40 percent of small businesses don’t reopen after a natural disaster. The reasons vary from property damage to loss of computer systems.

As you are planning for the New Year, here are some things to do to safeguard your small business operations in the event of a natural disaster or even a man-made one.

Move data to the clouds: You can protect your data from loss with cloud computing  – remote computing leveraging the Internet — versus storing it onsite in a server closet or on individual computers. If the disaster should affect access to the Internet, your employees will not have access to your data. Still your data will be protected if the disaster is great enough to cause the physical destruction of your onsite IT resources. In the event you still are storing data onsite; be sure to back it up regularly via tape or disk and store copies at a remote location.

Prepare a business continuity plan: Don’t be caught off guard. Have a plan in place that identifies exactly what steps your business would need to take to return to normal operations in the event of a natural disaster.

Check your insurance: Go over your insurance coverage in detail to find out what would happen if your building was damaged or destroyed during a natural disaster. Take out the necessary coverage for whatever is the most likely disaster to occur in your area – flood, high winds or earthquake.

Consider relocation: Consider where you would move operations temporarily or long term if your offices were damaged or destroyed.

Create a communication plan: Plan ahead to ensure you will be able to communicate with employees and clients while your business is down. Make sure everyone on your team knows what their responsibilities are – for example, who calls what clients and who calls vendors  – should disaster occur.

Even once you make all your plans, revisit them periodically to make sure they are up to date and so you can rest easy that you are prepared.