Point of View: What COVID Has Taught Us About Crisis Preparedness | Editorials

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown South Dakotas the importance small businesses play in our local and national economies. In early 2020, as COVID-19 began to spread in the United States, small businesses and entrepreneurs were forced to quickly adapt their business models, shifting to new marketing and sales techniques to continue to offer products and services in the local, national and global market space. . During National Small Business Week, September 13-17, the US Small Business Administration highlights the resilience of American entrepreneurs and the renewal of the small business economy as we collectively recover from the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic.

While overcoming the pandemic continues to be at the heart of our economy’s progress, our country remains vulnerable to various natural disasters, including forest fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards and drought. Historically, up to 25% of businesses that close due to a disaster never reopen. The SBA encourages businesses in South Dakota to create or update a workable crisis preparedness plan based on lessons learned from COVID-19 and other natural disasters. The following business strategies help homeowners prepare for a disaster:

1. Evaluate your exposure. Know your community and the types of disasters most likely to impact your business. Consider how close your facility is to flood plains, wildfire areas, rivers and streams, and other hazards. Include the COVID-19 pandemic as the first exposure problem on the list.

2. Review your insurance coverage. Consult your insurance agent to determine the best coverage. Specifically, learn about eligible coverage during a pandemic. Purchase business interruption insurance to help cover operating expenses in the event of a temporary shutdown. You may also need separate flood insurance.

3. Examine and prepare your supply chain. At the start of the pandemic, many food suppliers temporarily went out of business and were unable to fulfill customer orders. It is important for small businesses to establish business relationships with other suppliers in case the primary suppliers are not available. Place occasional orders with other suppliers to be considered an active customer. Create a contact list for major contractors and suppliers that you plan to use in an emergency. Keep this list in an offsite location.

4. Create a crisis communication plan. At the start of the pandemic, many business owners did not have up-to-date contact information for their employees and suppliers. Establish an email and social media alert system, keeping the primary and secondary email addresses of your employees, suppliers and customers. Provide real-time updates to your clients / customers and the community so they know you are still in business – or, potentially in the process of getting back to business – following a crisis.

5. Establish a written chain of command. Notify your emergency chain of command employees if your business goes down. Maintain a clear disaster and sick leave policy. Establish a back-up payroll service if your office is destroyed.

6. Create / implement a business continuity plan. This plan should indicate when it will be activated; identify essential business functions and the personnel to perform those functions; determine which employees are considered non-essential versus essential; and identify records and documents that need to be secure and easily accessible to perform key functions. Be prepared to implement the remote disaster business continuity plan.

Developing an effective and achievable disaster recovery plan is essential for all small business owners and can make the difference in continuing operations or closing doors permanently after a disaster. For more information on the SBA’s current crisis planning and COVID 19 relief programs, please visit www.sba.gov/disaster.

Jaime L. Wood is the South Dakota District Director of the Sioux Falls-based SBA and oversees SBA programs and services statewide.

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