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Make sure you business is prepared to deal with wildfire threat

Lisa Speth-Jones

The recent Topaz Ranch Estates fire in Douglas County provides an important reminder that northern Nevada business owners must be prepared in the event of a business interruption or disaster. The best time to respond to a disaster, such as a large wildfire, is before it happens.

Begin by developing a wildfire disaster plan for your business now. Start thinking about what needs to happen for you to stay open for business. Here are some factors to include in your plan:

* Disaster planning toolkit: Identify the hazards and emergencies you might face. Seek out expert advice on what specific actions you can implement to make your business more wildfire-resistant. Pull all of this information together into a fire-safe toolkit that you can access quickly in an emergency.

* Facilities: What do you do if your buildings and/or equipment were lost in the wildfire? Can you work without certain equipment? Would you be able to operate your business from somewhere else in northern Nevada, assuming the current physical location was damaged or closed? Do you have emergency procedures in place for safe removal of personnel, key documents, technology, etc.?

* Employees: Make sure your employees are aware of all procedures and know what to do in an emergency situation. In the event that you are unavailable, do you have a clear chain of command? Have you identified someone who is prepared to make decisions on your behalf in your absence?

* Operations: What about technology? Are you ready for technology interruptions or prolonged power outages?

* Critical information: Where are your important documents stored? In the event of a wildfire loss, do you have appropriate back-ups in safe, offsite storage in the event something happens to the originals?

* Insurance: Do you have appropriate levels of insurance for different types of disasters? Remember there may be a different type of policy required for wildfires. Also, take time to meet with your banker to ensure you have enough cash flow to pay creditors, employees, and your own needs during a prolonged business interruption.

Getting back to business as quickly as possible after a wildfire pays dividends beyond your company’s bottom line. When companies get back on track, they can continue to provide essential jobs, products and services that can benefit the entire Northern Nevada region.

Protecting your finances and your business before a wildfire occurs is important. Visit with your disaster preparedness team now to understand how you can protect what you’ve built so you can continue serving your customers for years to come.

Lisa Speth-Jones is the northeast Reno/Sparks district manager for Wells Fargo.