By Joe DiNicolantonio

For most of the country, harsh weather conditions are inevitable. According to a recent study by Forrester Research, weather is the leading cause of business disruptions and with nine out of the top ten costliest storms occurring in the past decade, business continuity plans are no longer a should-have, but rather a must-have.

What businesses both large and small may not realize is that continuity of operations during a severe weather event is vital to maintaining an organization’s reputation. The question that begs to be asked is, “How quickly could your business get back on its feet?” If you have to pause before answering, some basic planning is necessary to protect your business investment and ensure your company is prepared to operate during good seasons and bad.

Following are steps every business should take in order to prepare for dismal conditions.

  • Create an emergency response plan for your company that includes evacuation procedures, emergency numbers and the locations of key shut-off valves, including water, electrical and gas – complete with pictures. Post this plan in public areas, such as break rooms or copy areas, for easy reference.
  • Involve employees in planning. Set up phone call trees, run drills and share printed and electronic details about your company’s inclement weather plans and procedures.
  • Be proactive. Have in place alternate locations to conduct business if your facility is unusable. This includes the option for team members to work from home.
  • Consider preemptive measures, such as having automatic backup generators in the case of a power outage.
  • Make advance arrangements with key vendors to provide support services that will get you back in business should the unexpected happen. These include: internet and phone providers, building and office security, and information technology resources.
  • Insurance policies can protect your business against losses from unexpected weather events. Take time to familiarize yourself with your existing coverage. Remember to review it annually or after a period of inclement weather, which may or may not have caused damage to your office space.
  • Keep a cash cushion, at least three months’ worth of cash needs – including employee salaries – on hand. Beyond the cushion, it’s also worth establishing a credit line or other borrowing mechanism before it’s needed so the business has something to fall back on in case of a financial crunch caused by city-wide closures.

The most successful business owners are those that balance their pursuit of growth with a prudent approach to risk management.

Joe DiNicolantonio, EVP, is the head of business banking at Regions. For more information, visit