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Part 2: Disaster Conference Zeros In On Preparation

After learning about tapping into resources, critical infrastructure, and lessons learned from recent natural disasters, business owners brushed up on preserving data, business continuity, and having the right insurance before disaster strikes.

A major storm could potentially wipe out businesses that have taken generations to build in a matter of minutes.

And while major corporations may have one or more staff members to ensure the continuity of an organization when natural disaster strikes, many small business owners may not have the additional staff or know of available resources.

The Disaster Preparedness Conference Tuesday at Bergen Community, an event organized by the Meadowlands Regional Chamber (MRC), the Bergen County Executive Office, and the Bergen County Office of Emergency Management, provided local businesses with critical business continuity plans in the event of a major emergency.

Jim Kirkos, CEO of the MRC, said when his Lyndhurst home flooded for the first time after 27 years, he had significant damage in his home and an investment property next door.

“That whole experience kept it fresh in my mind,” said Kirkos who moderated the conference. “Then with all this news it seems we’re watching natural disasters on TV weekly. I have business owners saying to me, ‘God, I really need to think about this. What happens if?’’

Kirkos said the MRC decided to take the lead and provide information to small and medium size companies on what resources are available in the county and within municipalities.

“We need to get small businesses thinking about this,” Kirkos added. “I don’t believe these severe weather incidents are going to stop. I think the days of the 100-year flood are gone. My flood incident could happen every year with one bad storm.”

While the  focused on resources, infrastructure and lessons learned from Hurricane Floyd and Hurricane Irene, the second half featured procedures and programs designed to protect business assets in case disaster strikes.

According to research by Triada Networks, one of the panelists:

  • 43 percent of businesses never reopen after a disaster.
  • A third close within two years after a disaster.
  • More than half never recoup the losses they incur.
  • Three quarters of businesses that have tested their backup tapes are not able to use them. 
  • Almost half of small and medium businesses do not backup their data.

Bruce Dolin from Dolin Insurance, one of the panelists, said from an insurance perspective, there are incentives in putting together a good safety plan.    

“Obviously it’s going to save you money in your insurance premiums because your losses are going to be down,” said Dolin. “And that’s important from a moral standpoint because if you have a number of workers comp claims or you have business down for a while, how do these people [employees] feel out of work? When you have a moral problem it affects your work and productivity.”   

In addition to installing a solar roof to minimize exposure to the elements, Tom Rybak from T.M. Rybak and Associates recommends “green roofs” equipped with dirt and plant areas to provide an insulating factor.  

“The plus is you’re strengthening your structure and you’re managing your water runoff,” said Rybak, adding that parking lots with porous paving will allow water to go through the paving system while minimizing the burden on the county, local rivers and homes.

“We all have to be advocates as professionals, business owners, occupants, and utility companies, to minimize our disasters because some of these disasters are nature-caused, and some are caused by us not managing our resources and sites correctly,” Rybak added. “They may not impact you directly, but your mismanagement may impact your neighbor or your community.”        

Raffi Jamgotchian from Triada Networks, who focused mainly on protecting backup data on and off-site, said auto-testing backups provides peace of mind as opposed to manual testing, which can be more time consuming.

“Do some data integrity checking,” said Jamgotchian. “You may have a good backup that occurred at your location, but when you pushed it off-site, the off-site copy may have been corrupted along the way. So make sure the data integrity takes place on both ends, and both copies mirror each other.”      

For more information on disaster preparedness, go here.

Visit Meadowlands Regional Chamber  to learn more about similar events in the future.

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