Like many others, I sat and watched as the inferno enveloped homes and dreams as it waged its way over the west side of Colorado Springs. I had watched Hurricane Katrina several years ago demolish New Orleans. However, as I had stayed with my father frequently when he had worked in Colorado Springs when I was (much) younger and as I have friends there, this disaster struck closer to home.

My heart goes out to those that lost their homes and businesses in the Waldo Canyon fire, the High Park fire, and the other fires that have waged across Colorado the past few months. It made me rethink my personal and business disaster recovery plans. To make sure you are prepared for disaster, please make sure you have done the following:

  1. Know where you personal and business legal documents are. You need to have easily accessible copies of your company documents (such as setup documents, leases, contracts, bank information, credit card information, and insurance paperwork). You need easily accessible copies of your personal documents (such as marriage certificates, social security numbers, passports, driver’s licenses, bank information, property records, credit card information, birth certificates, and insurance information). If possible, you should make sure there is an easily accessible *secure* electronic copy available in case you cannot grab these documents during a disaster.
  2. Check your insurance policies and make sure you are properly covered. Do you have business interruption insurance? Do you have adequate property insurance? Do you have inventory lists of your business and home? Make sure you have the right amounts of insurance and the right insurance for your situation before you need it!
  3. Do you have backups of your information? If you do not have offsite backups of your electronic documents, you need it. Research offsite providers and find out the best option for you. Dropbox, Google, and Amazon all offer offsite backups. If you want a physical offsite backup, there are both banks and private companies that offer offsite storage. A note of caution if you do physical offsite backups – you may want to also have a backup in another state! Hurricane Katrina destroyed a whole city so if you kept a backup in a safety deposit box at your local bank, there is a good chance that the local bank would have been destroyed too!
  4. Have a personal disaster plan. You need a disaster plan for both your family and your business! Personally, you need to know where you will meet loved ones in case of a disaster. As a child, you probably practiced how to get up to your family’s meet up place in case of a house fire. Have you come up with one as an adult? You need a place in case of a close disaster (i.e. we meet across the street if there is a fire in our house), a local place (i.e. we meet at the Starbucks at Main Street if there is a problem in our neighborhood), and a semi-local place (i.e. we meet at the King Soopers parking lot at CITY if there is a problem in our whole area). You need to keep gas in your car, have food and water, and look at the Red Cross Preparation Guide for Families. Do not assume that water, food, or phones will be available in your area if there is a disaster.
  5. Have a business disaster plan. On the business side, you need to have your employees and customer information to reach out to in case of a disaster. You need to have a website you can update. You need insurance information at your fingertips. You need to know what you will do if you are closed for a day, a week, a month. If you sell food items and the power is off for 10 hours, should you start giving away food because it is going to go bad? If you provide services and end up in the hospital for a week, do you have a colleague that can provide services to your clients? Do you have business interruption insurance that will pay you if you are closed for a month? Look at the Red Cross Preparation Guide for Businesses for more information.

You can never completely prepare for a disaster. If you could, it would not be called a disaster. However, you can make plans so that if one happens, you will be protected as much as possible.

If you have any questions, please call or email me.