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Document Preparedness: When Disaster Strikes, Will You Be Ready?


Ben Goldstein

Disaster can strike at any time. For small businesses, any sort of disaster can cause a devastating ripple effect that can shake the business to the core. So, as business owners we have to do our best to ensure that we are as prepared as possible in the unfortunate case that a disaster affects our business.

Types of Disasters

In general, there are two types of disasters — preventable and unpreventable. Preventable disasters are events that are most often addressed in a business risk assessment, and can be identified so there is a plan in place (e.g., loss of cash flow, technology crash, security breach, etc.).

Unpreventable disasters are often filed under “natural” disasters and can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. Although these disasters can’t be prevented, they can be prepared for and anticipated.

Lesson Learned

A year after I launched my first business, we were expanding and leased an office. The office was in a beautiful space, but was also located in a known flood zone, which experienced sporadic flooding when the river waters swelled. Fortunately, we were on the third floor of the building and our desks and equipment were in the flood-free zone. Unfortunately, our files weren’t kept on the same level of the building, and with one unexpected flash flood, our not-so-tightly-fitting-Rubbermaid took on water, and our hard-copy filed documents met their kryptonite and were destroyed.

The lesson learned? Document preparedness can prevent a ton of headaches — and a lot of heartache.

What Is Document Preparedness?

Document preparedness means having a proactive plan that prevents all-important documents from being destroyed and/or disappearing in a disaster. In other words, it is about protecting your documents in case they were caught in a fire, flood, or natural disaster.

To get started and launch a document preparedness strategy, consider answering these questions:

  • Where are your important documents?
  • Are they secure and out of danger?
  • Are they locked away and safe, but accessible as needed?
  • Are your important documents hard copies, digital, or both?
  • Do you have a backup drive?
  • Where do you store your backup drive?
  • Do you even know what a backup drive is?

If you have a few unknowns or you realized that your current solution may not be ideal, keep reading.

3 Steps to Document Preparedness

To prevent the headaches and heartache, get organized and follow these three steps.

  1. Conduct an audit. Review all of your important documents and identify which ones you have and what you need to protect. Categorize the documents based on the functions they serve and determine how you would access each document in a disaster situation and who else may need access to them. Once you have a better understanding of your current situation, you can determine the best preparedness solution for your business.
  1. Go digital. Take all those important paper documents and turn them into digital files. Use a high quality scanner and create digital duplicates for your keeping. Once you digitize, you won’t have to worry so much about the physical documents and deploying a search-and-rescue for your fireproof box when you’re in an extreme situation. Digital documents take up less physical storage space and have less of a chance of experiencing damage in a disaster situation.
  1. Use a storage solution. Once your documents are digitized, you have to store them. This could mean storing files on your computer and backing up data to an external hard drive. Or, you could take it a step further and back your files up to a cloud service such as Box.com or Dropbox, so you don’t have to worry about a physical location and you can access your documents from anywhere, any time.

Although we cannot prevent natural disasters, we can prevent the effects that our businesses (and souls) may suffer from losing our documents. Prepare the best you can and rest a little easier by gaining peace of mind.