Finance Globe

U.S. financial and economic topics from several finance writers.
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September is National Preparedness Month

The U.S. has been hit hard by natural disasters this year. The Groundhog Day blizzard in the Northeast, tornadoes across several regions, drought and wildfires in the Southern Plains and Southwest, and flooding along the Mississippi River and in the Upper Midwest have resulted in an estimated $35 billion in economic damages and the loss of hundreds of lives, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The NOAA figure doesn’t account for recent damages brought on by Hurricane Irene - early estimated costs are expected to be in the range of $7 to $13 billion.

One in five small businesses have been impacted by a disaster in the past, and 40 to 60 percent of those affected by disaster had to close their doors permanently after being hit. But over half of business owners say they are not concerned about a disaster affecting their business, according to survey results released by Wells Fargo Bank on Monday.

Less than a third of of business owners polled said they were extremely or very prepared for a major disaster, and 46% said they were only somewhat prepared.

“Small business owners know what it means to face unexpected challenges, and how to adapt their businesses to survive,” said Doug Case, Wells Fargo small business segment manager. “But for many small business owners, day-to-day business concerns in an uncertain economy require their full attention and emergency preparedness may often be set aside for another day.”

The survey also found that business owners were more likely to be prepared for emergency situations at home than they are at work. Fifty-four percent of business owners said they had a defined and practiced emergency plan at home, but only 37 percent had one at work. And 71 percent said they had emergency supplies at home, compared to 52 percent who said they had supplies at work.

Many business owners spend up to half of their time at their place of business, and a major disaster can strike without much warning. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends keeping an emergency kit at home, at work, and in your car.

Call it an emergency kit, a survival kit, a bug out bag, or a 72-hour kit - it’s purpose is to provide supplies for your basic needs for at least three days in the case of a severe emergency or natural disaster.

Your kit should be in one easy-to-grab-and-go container such as a backpack or duffel, and should include non-perishable food and can opener, water (one gallon per person per day), shelter, medication and first aid supplies, extra clothing (and comfortable shoes if you wear dress shoes to work), bedding, sanitation supplies, flashlight and extra batteries, knife and multi-tool, a solar or hand-crank radio, duct tape and paracord, waterproof matches and a lighter, whistle, map and compass, paper and pencil, and copies of important documentation as well as some cash.

Consider raiding your camping gear for items that can double as survival equipment such as a camping stove and lightweight cookware, water filter and/or chemical water treatment, tarps and space blankets, 2-way radios - and keep them in your survival kit when you’re not camping. Likewise, freeze-dried meals made specially for camping/backpacking can be a lightweight alternative to canned food. Finally, toss in some lightweight entertainment to pass the time such as a deck of cards, a book, and a small toy for your child. Waterproof your kit with a dry bag or several duct-taped trash bags before packing it into your backpack or duffel.

A disaster-prepared kit can be much more extensive, or it can be a bare-bones version of the above list. Each individual must assess the needs of their family, the types of disaster most likely to happen in their location, as well as the weather patterns in their area. Disaster kits can be purchased pre-assembled, but many prefer to custom-tailor a kit themselves. But no matter what, any kit you have available to grab-and-go is better than having no kit at all.

In addition to having a ready-to-go kit, it’s important to have an evacuation plan. Practice safety drills with family members and employees. Also have an out-of-state point of contact such as a family member or good friend to communicate among separated family members, and be sure everyone in the household knows the contact person’s phone number.

September is National Preparedness Month. This month was chosen as the tragedies of September 11, 2001 emphasized to the nation the importance of being prepared for an emergency.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Wells Fargo Bank
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Thursday, 25 April 2024

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