Disaster Recovery

Lessons Learned from the Fire

Disasters can change everything in the blink of an eye. The fire that wiped out our building, our office and the other 8 businesses was shocking and disturbing. The Chamber had occupied the office at 100 Lafayette Circle since 1992. It was home to me and my staff and the many members that dropped in all the time. Standing there watching the building burn at 12:30am was surreal. Hours later the staff assembled at Papillon along with police, city council, city manager, our insurance agent and our communications team. Because we are the chamber, we needed to develop three plans. One for us, one for the other businesses that suffered and one for connecting and supporting our members in the community.

Preparing for the unexpected payed off. We are in great financial shape. Our Board of Directors makes sure we build our reserve year after year for such a time. We have really good insurance. We have an excellent IT team that had us get up and running with new equipment and working with all our files saved in the cloud. We didn’t miss a beat. But we could have done better. If I could do it over again, I would:

  • SCAN every important document you have. For us, most of what we lost was historical, going back to the pre-computer era.
  • Take photos of your office every year, every desk, wall, closet and store room. In recreating our inventory for insurance purposes we are still remembering item we lost a month after the fire. If you can, take inventory occasionally. Have the serial numbers of your equipment/computers backed up away from the office.
  • If you back up to flash drives in addition to the cloud, make sure you take that flash drive with you every night. We did have some of our files that had not been backed up since May and that caused some added work in the aftermath.
  • FEMA exists to help citizens, not small businesses. There is help out there, but someone has to help navigate you through the process. In our case, not only had we been a victim of the fire, we were also the local agency that helped organize the resources for the other tenants.

I always joke that when I plan Emergency Preparedness & Business Recovery Seminars, I always get a better turnout when we have just had 6.9 earthquake.

  • Write a Disaster/Recovery Plan for your business, even if you are the only employee of the business. Having the checklist in front of you when you need it really helps. Just make sure you have that backed up too! There are some excellent sites for help in building a plan. Listed here are some excellent sources you can use build your own Business Recovery Plan.