It’s been a very active year for natural disasters across the world, and national weather experts predict no signs of things slowing down. As we enter summer, it’s a very ideal time to implement or revisit the disaster recovery plan for your business. By taking a few steps before disaster strikes, business owners can reduce their stress when it comes time to file claims or rebuild after the catastrophic event.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recommends these six tips to help you prepare for a disaster:

1.  Minimize Data Loss and Downtime. In the event that your critical business systems are damaged during a disaster, regular data backups to an off-site location will minimize data loss experienced by your company. Doeren Mayhew’s IT Advisory and Security Group recommends companies develop their own regular backup schedules and is familiar with the process of restoring those backups. In an effort to minimize service interruptions, companies can employ the use of backup servers for critical applications to enable a seamless transition in the case that any equipment is affected by a disaster. Make sure to test the backups regularly!

2.  Continuity of Operations Planning for Businesses. How quickly your company can get back to business after a disaster often depends on emergency planning done today. Start planning now to improve the likelihood that your company will survive and recover. Review your emergency plans annually. Just as your business changes over time, so do your preparedness needs. When you hire new employees or when there are changes in how your company functions, you should update your plans and inform your people.

There are real benefits to being prepared for disasters. The following preparedness strategies are common to all disasters:

  • Get informed about hazards and emergencies and learn what to do for specific hazards.
  • Develop an emergency plan.
  • Learn where to seek shelter from all types of hazards.
  • Back up your computer data systems regularly.
  • Decide how you will communicate with employees, customers and others.
  • Use cell phones, walkie-talkies or other devices that do not rely on electricity as a backup to your telecommunications system.
  • Collect and assemble a disaster supplies kit, which should include a portable generator.
  • Identify the community warning systems and evacuation routes.
  • Include required information from community and school plans.
  • Practice and maintain your plan.

3.  Document Valuables and Business Equipment. It’s a good idea to photograph or videotape the contents of your business, especially items of higher value. Documenting these items ahead of time will make it easier to claim insurance and tax benefits after a disaster strikes. Photographs can help prove the fair market value of items for insurance and casualty loss claims. The IRS also has disaster loss workbooks for individuals and businesses that can help you compile a room-by-room list of your belongings or business equipment.

4.  Take Advantage of Paperless Recordkeeping for Financial and Tax Records. Many people receive bank statements and documents by email, which is a useful way to secure financial records. Important tax records such as W-2s, tax returns and other paper documents can be scanned onto an electronic format.

Be sure to back up your electronic files and store them in a safe place. Making duplicates and keeping them in a separate location is a good business practice. Other options include copying files onto a CD or DVD. Also, many retail stores sell computer software packages that you can use for recordkeeping.

When choosing a place to keep your important records, convenience to your home should not be your primary concern. Remember, a disaster that strikes your home is also likely to affect other facilities nearby, making quick retrieval of your records difficult and maybe even impossible.

5.  Check on Fiduciary Bonds. Employers who use payroll service providers should ask the provider if they have a fiduciary bond in place. The bond could protect the employer in the event of default by the payroll service provider.

6.  Update Emergency Plans. A disaster can strike any time, so be sure to review emergency plans annually. Personal and business situations change over time, as do preparedness needs. When employers hire new employees or when a company or organization changes functions, plans should be updated accordingly and employees should be informed of the changes. Make plans ahead of time and be sure to practice them.

How Can Doeren Mayhew Help?

Doeren Mayhew’s team of advisors offers support in disaster preparedness, including helping you evaluate needs, identifying risks and/or reviewing your current plan to ensure it is the best fit your business. For more information, contact us today.