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Post-disaster: Instant communications, cash, credit are key

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A hailstorm belted Berks County four years ago, destroying the inventory of auto dealerships.
PHOTO/ZEPHYRIS A hailstorm belted Berks County four years ago, destroying the inventory of auto dealerships.

Disasters only happen to everyone else, right? That is, until they happen to you.

It seems almost every day we hear about more businesses and people displaced by natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, severe storms, floods, fires and mudslides.

Mother Nature too often reminds us who is in charge.

For example, in May 2014, a vicious hailstorm struck the Reading area. Hailstones nearly the size of tennis balls relentlessly pelted the suburbs.

Practically all vehicles in the storm’s path were destroyed. Auto dealerships lost their inventory and had nothing to sell.

Fortunately, injuries were few. Still, the property destruction was massive.

So, what can you do to minimize the effect of such a catastrophic event on your business and you?

A little planning goes a long way. And to do so, look at the three most important aspects of your business: communications, finances and data.

Fortunately, these areas are portable or can be duplicated, so if there is a disaster, you have backup access.


Examine your telephone and internet communications setups. What happens if your business location is inaccessible because of a disaster? How will you communicate with your customers and vice versa?

Most people will understand and put up with minor glitches, but clients probably won’t tolerate lengthy outages.

Many phone services allow you to forward calls to another location, such as your home or another business site. Either way, make sure you have simple ways for your clients to contact you.

You also must make them aware of any major problems as soon as possible.


If your checkbook burns in a fire that destroys your business, do you still have a way to pay your bills and employees?

Make sure you have systems in place to handle incoming and outgoing cash flows.

You also may need access to financing to pay for cleanup and to keep your business moving forward.

Make sure you have adequate credit resources, along with the ability to access business accounts, regardless of your situation.


This is where many deficiencies are found. For example, when asked if they’ve backed up their phone, most people respond, “I’ve been meaning to do that.”

Procrastination is an enemy of us all.

What happens if your office is destroyed or you can’t physically reach it? Your ability to access information on your servers in case of an emergency is critical.

That’s why it’s important to back up information and records to an off-site location. Always back up information regularly and ensure security measures are in place.

Unlike 20 years ago, many of these practices are now mainstream, thanks to new technologies.

There are numerous online providers that provide data storage services, and the cost is not prohibitive. Cloud computing has become an increasingly popular and valuable way to back up information.


The government offers information on disaster preparedness at www.ready.gov.

So resolve to create a contingency plan to deal with an unwanted visit from an angry Mother Nature.

Paul Marrella is a wealth manager at Marrella Financial Group LLC in Wyomissing, public speaker and author of “What Now? The Widow’s Guide to Financial Independence.” He focuses on providing wealth management and retirement income solutions to successful families in southeastern Pennsylvania and can be reached at www.marrella.com or 610-655-9700.

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