Edited Version March 1, 2000 Transcript
EIIP Virtual Online Library Presentation

"Open For Business: A Disaster Planning Toolkit for the Small Business Owner"

Herbert Mitchell
Deputy Associate Administrator
SBA Office of Disaster Assistance

Diana McClure
Assistant Vice President
Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS)

EIIP Moderator: Amy Sebring

The original unedited transcript of the March 1, 2000 online Virtual Library presentation is available in the EIIP Virtual Forum Archives (http://www.emforum.org). The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. Typos were corrected, date/time/names attributed by the software to each input were deleted but the content of questions and responses are as stated by each participant. Answers to participants’ questions are grouped beneath the appropriate question to facilitate meaning.


Amy Sebring: Welcome to the EIIP Virtual Library!

For the benefit of our first-timers, when you see a blue web address, you can click on it and the referenced Web page should appear in a browser window. After the first one, the browser window may not automatically come to the top, so you ay need to bring it forward by clicking on a button at the status bar at the bottom of your screen.

We will start with a presentation, and then follow with a Q&A session for your questions and comments. Right before we begin the Q&A portion we will review the procedure. Please do NOT send direct messages to the speaker or moderator as it makes it difficult for us to follow the discussion.

Background information for today's session may be found at <http://www.emforum.org/vlibrary/000301.htm>. Our subject today is outreach to small businesses and a new publication from the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) entitled "Open For Business: A Disaster Planning: Toolkit for the Small Business Owner."

We are pleased to welcome Herbert Mitchell, Deputy Associate Administrator for the SBA Office of Disaster Assistance, and to welcome back Diana McClure, Assistant Vice President of Showcase Programs and Special Projects for IBHS. Please see the background page for further biographical information. Herb will start us off with some background information about this project, and Diana will add a few remarks and also assist with the Q&A.

Thank you both for taking time to be with us today, and Herb, please start us off if you are ready?


Herb Mitchell: I am glad to be here today along with Diana McClure of the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) who has played a vital role in producing the disaster preparedness toolkit for small businesses. The Institute for Business and Home Safety(IBHS) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) are pleased to present "Open For Business - A Disaster Planning Toolkit for the Small Business Owner".

The kit is designed to help the small business owner: (1) identify the hazards it faces; (2) plan for and reduce the impact of disasters; (3) keep its doors open after a disaster hits and (4) advise the business owner on insurance, disaster supplies and the things that can make the difference. Amy, please show the table of contents for the toolkit.


Thanks. The entire toolkit can be accessed at http://www.ibhs.org. Many small business owners only think about protecting their small businesses after the flood, earthquake, fire, tornado, hurricane or ice storm. Many take the attitude that it won't happen to me.

During the past 10 years, disaster recovery and disaster loan making has become a growth industry in the United States. Being prepared can make the difference between being shut down for a few days, and losing employees, customers or worse loss of the business completely.

Of all businesses that close down following a disaster, it is estimated that more than 43 percent never reopen and an additional 29% close for good within two years. Unless small businesses protect their business from natural disasters, they risk losing it altogether.

A small investment of time will go along way toward averting serious damage to a small business and minimize the disruption a natural disaster can cause. No matter how large or small the business owner must engage in a business impact analysis to identify what needs to be done to protect itself in the face of a natural disaster.

The primary purpose of the business impact analysis is to determine what parts of the business need to be up an running as soon as possible. There are many considerations that should be addressed in analyzing the business' vital functions and resources: electrical systems, computers, voice and data communications, customer information, billing operations, inventory, equipment, etc.

Small business owners should evaluate their insurance before a disaster hits. The insurance must be tailored to the individual business and take into consideration not only property damage, but loss of revenues and extra expenses that may occur when a business is hit by a disaster.

Business records - information stored on paper and computer - should be classified as "useful", "important" or "vital" and stored offsite.

It is important to a have a plan for the post-disaster phase as well. Immediately contact the insurance carrier, suppliers, creditors, employees, customers, media, utility companies, emergency recovery agencies.

A real life story- Living in California, says restaurant owner John Barbour, means that while you understand the deadly threat of the powerful force under your feet--the San Andreas Fault--it's not something that you think about every day. Yet, he was not prepared for the unexpected disaster that nearly destroyed his successful oceanfront eatery 25 miles south of San Francisco, the Moss Beach Distillery.

Pounding rains in January 1995 caused flooding and mudslides that destroyed the restaurant's foundation. In addition to the physical damage to his property, mudslides shut down the highway for five months, eliminating customer access. His customer base was cut by 30% and the jobs of 75 employees were at risk.

Barbour got a $1.5 million dollar loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to repair the damaged property and cover his economic losses. As part of the rebuilding, he took advantage of the opportunity to offset the risk of future disaster damage. Barbour installed a new drainage system, redesigned and repaved the parking lot so that water could drain more easily, and erected a retaining wall to prevent future damage.

The Moss Beach Distillery reopened in February, 1997. A year later, heavy rains caused by El Nino weather pattern hit the same area, causing heavy flooding. And while Moss Beach wasn't damaged as severely as it had been three years earlier, Barbour said he had less to fear, because he is now prepared for the worst.

Small businesses means jobs for local residents and security for their families. It means a sound tax base for the local government. It means a healthier economy.

There is no way to prevent a natural disaster from occurring. Small business owners can, however, take action to avoid the most devastating damage that he or she may face. The use of this toolkit as guide will go a long way in insuring the safety and continuity of small businesses in the event of a disaster.

SBA has a unique role to play in disasters. SBA is the primary source of recovery financial assistance for homeowners, renters and businesses who are victims of a disaster. SBA disaster loans can be used to repair or replace what was destroyed or damaged by the disaster and to provide an additional 20% for mitigation measures after a disaster. As a result of recent legislation, SBA has the authority to conduct a five year pilot program to provide pre-disaster mitigation loans to small businesses located in FEMA designated Project Impact Communities.

Amy Sebring: Thank you, Herb. We will hear from Diana now, please.

Diana McClure: Thank you, Herb. You explained the purpose of the Open for Business toolkit thoroughly. I'd like to add a bit about the Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), how the toolkit is being used around the country, and the feedback IBHS and the SBA would like from users.

IBHS is an initiative of the insurance industry to reduce deaths, injuries, property damage, economic loss and human suffering caused by natural disasters. We are supported by property insurers that write the majority of the business in the U.S. We also have many associate members representing diverse groups, anyone who is interested in disaster protection.

My work with IBHS includes responsibility for Showcase programs and special projects (which includes this toolkit). IBHS' Showcase State program provides a comprehensive framework for government and the private sector to prepare for and minimize the impact of natural disasters.

The Showcase State program is organized around 14 elements to support state actions that will help communities move towards disaster resistance and resilience. One of the elements is to develop partnerships with businesses to provide a public-private link for coordinated mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. Another is to work closely with FEMA Project Impact communities. Rhode Island is our first Showcase State. Governor Lincoln Almond signed an Executive Order on December 18, 1998 committing the state to work on these 14 elements.

Since small businesses make up 97% of the economy in Rhode Island, it made sense to reach out to them. Stephen Baruch, who is here today, worked with us to interview many small businesses and Chamber of Commerce directors to determine their disaster recovery needs. Many of these needs are incorporated into the toolkit.

Stephen is also working with the Economic Development Administration (Dept. of Commerce), which has developed a Disaster Resistant Jobs course held at EMI, to support FEMA's Project Impact program. It is being held four times/year for five years. The toolkit is integrated into that course.

Disaster preparedness, mitigation actions, and business continuity/recovery planning should become a part of a community's strategic planning as it makes economic development decisions, as well as when it plans for managing and recovering from a natural disaster.

IBHS and the SBA are targeting some high loss areas around the country to market and test the toolkit, focusing on FEMA Project Impact communities and IBHS Showcase programs. So far we are targeting Florida, Texas and California as high loss states; Rhode Island as a Showcase State; SW Indiana and MO; and hopefully, GA and the Carolinas.

I spoke at the Central Gulf States Project Impact Conference in mid-February (AL, MS and FL), and there is a great deal of interest in using the toolkit in Project Impact communities.

IBHS is also working with its member companies (commercial lines), offering them the toolkit to use with their small business policyholders. We will work with the SBA regional disaster assistance offices, state SBA offices and/or SBA's Small Business Development Centers to provide a workshop for end users.

We are working with companies that have an interest in mitigation that see the toolkit as a "value added" for their products - this is a way to get the toolkit more broadly disseminated and used. We are interested in how you might want to use it too.

Our goal is to get good feedback from these small business owners, how useful the toolkit is, to find out what else might be needed as an addendum, and what other projects would be good for IBHS to tackle.

The toolkit is in a three-ring binder, is very colorful and attractive -- it has to catch peoples' attention. It is available for $10/copy from IBHS. Go to http://www.ibhs.org and click on Publications. There is an order form. You can also download it from our website. If you download it, be careful -- there are lots of graphics, and you don't want to overload the memory of your printer. Do it a few pages at a time.

Herb and I are very interested in your questions, ideas of how you might use the toolkit, and in any feedback from those who have had experience working with small businesses to prepare for and recover from natural disasters.

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much, Herb and Diana. Judging from my email and our turnout today, there is a lot of interest in using this publication. Audience, please enter a question mark (?) to indicate you wish to be recognized, go ahead and compose your comment or question, but wait for recognition before hitting the enter key or clicking on Send. We now invite your questions/comments or we would like to hear about your experiences with small businesses. Please indicate to whom your question is addressed. Rick, first please.

[Audience Questions]


Rick Tobin: Could I use this program to give free seminars to businesses in my community, without additional charges beyond the materials?

Amy Sebring: Diana, could you put in about the copyright, and where to get materials, and address Rick's question, please?

Diana McClure: There is a copyright, but we only need to give permission for reproduction.

Rick Tobin: Thanks.

Diana McClure: Rick, you can certainly use the toolkit for such seminars - we'd love to hear feedback about it.


Claire Rubin: How long has it been in use and what is the feedback so far?

Diana McClure: The toolkit was introduced in December 1999; feedback has been excellent, especially because it is easy to use and brief. It is designed as an introduction to disaster recovery planning.


Robert Swan: Have you considered a future addendum on debris cleanup issues? There is a lack of guidance to the private sector concerning public sector debris policy and planning.

Diana McClure: Robert, we are receptive to any ideas for addenda or future projects. Perhaps we could discuss off line?

Robert Swan: Dennis Kwiatkowski and I are available for off line discussions on this topic <[email protected]>.


Stephen Baruch: The feedback at FEMA's EMI training class was excellent.

Diana McClure: Thank you. Stephen, any specific feedback from EMI?

Stephen Baruch: Yes, the checklists in the back of the Toolkit were very valuable for small business owners to focus their needs on.


David Crews: Is this kit available in CD ROM and hardcopy formats? What is the address/Contact numbers to obtain these materials and fees, if any?

Amy Sebring: I understand hard copy can be ordered through their Website, David, for $10.

Diana McClure: It is not available on CD ROM yet, but we're working on it. Hard copy - either order it from us, or download from http://www.ibhs.org. Address is IBHS, 175 Federal St. Suite 500, Boston, MA 02110. Phone is 617-292-2003 x216. Email <[email protected]> or <[email protected]> for ordering info.


Wallace Wilson: I am working with the Association of State Floodplain Mgrs. to put on a series of five or six floodproofing workshops around the US. How large is the toolkit if we need to duplicate it? We will be doing workshops in NC and have already done them in NV and MS. Many of the attendees are representatives of small businesses. We also produced a national floodproofing conference last year in Baton Rouge which would have been an excellent forum for the toolkit.

Diana McClure: Total of about 30 pages, + a poster. You can also work with Karen Gahagan at IBHS to go through our printer for multiple copies. Call 617-292-2003 x224.


Robert Lecky: This is a comment. My concern is with the landlord. Small businesses lease space and typically the land lord is less concerned with disaster prep of the building.

Amy Sebring: Interesting point, Robert. Herb, can you comment?

Herb Mitchell: Disaster preparedness is not only for the small business owner but for the landlord, as well.

Amy Sebring: Diana, any comment re landlord issue?

Diana McClure: There is lots of information in the toolkit for the small business owner to protect his/her inventory, contents, about insurance coverage, etc.

Stephen Baruch: Landlords are also becoming more concerned about Internet connections, as well as, natural disaster impact.

[Due to a problem at the chat server, the rest of the session was not recorded. Further discussion included strategies for disseminating this material. A regional SBA participant was highly enthusiastic about using this as a tool with small businesses, and Herb Mitchell stated there were 69 SBA offices around the country. Diana McClure mentioned working with Chambers of Commerce in Rhode Island, and that they will be at the National Hurricane Conference during April to present this material. Overall, there was a noted degree of enthusiasm for this project and the presentation in the Virtual Forum.]