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Disaster Preparedness and Your Laundry (Part 1)

Planning makes all the difference when fire, flood or other catastrophe strikes

CHICAGO — No business is immune to the effects of a fire, flood or other catastrophe but when the unthinkable happens, disaster preparedness will help an affected laundry focus on doing what’s needed to preserve its operations and reopen as quickly as possible.

“A disaster recovery plan is really your strategy that looks at potential risks to your business, whether it’s from natural disasters, manmade disasters,” says Robert “Bo” Steiner, director of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Illinois district office. “It’s basically that strategy that you put on paper that looks at what those risks are and how you will either mitigate any kind of adverse impacts, or the processes by which you’ll recover from something that happens in your business.”

Your planning should address the risks common to your business (dryer fire, water line break, etc.) and to your region of the country (different types of severe weather), he says.

“Look at the risks that you can see within your business and within your environment. From a natural disaster standpoint, different things are happening in California versus the Midwest versus the Southeast. You don’t want to address all those issues, you just want to address the things that have potential to impact your business.”

But beyond that, you have to prepare should an event elsewhere cause problems that indirectly impact you, such as a supplier being unable to get a product to you or the shop you rely on to repair your equipment being unable to service your needs.

“The first step is really just thinking about what those risks are and then bulleting all of them out,” Steiner says. “The next step is thinking about things that [you] can do to prepare for that.”

With the repair example, is there another shop that you could turn to for equipment service temporarily until your primary shop is back up?

Having adequate insurance coverage and a good relationship with your primary insurer is key to being able to respond to events that impact a laundry directly, such as fire.

“That’s a huge part of it, getting with your insurance agent and really understanding what kind of coverage you need and how they service a business in the event that you have one of these incidents,” Steiner says.

A store owner should be able to access his or her disaster preparedness plan immediately as needed, and its contents should be shared with every manager and attendant, he adds.

“Really, everyone should be informed of the disaster recovery plan,” Steiner says. “As an example, you have a natural disaster situation, the owner’s not available and they’re the only one to have that information, then nothing’s going to start moving forward until they deal with their things personally to come back and start working on things in the business.”

Having informed employees who can work safely to activate your plan as quickly as possible will be vital to getting your business back up and running.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion!

This article is based on an American Coin-Op podcast titled Having a Disaster Recovery Plan. To listen to this episode or other free podcasts, visit the Podcast Archive.