This is the Valley Industry and Commerce Association’s monthly column for the Business Journal While media outlets devote hundreds of column inches and minutes of airtime to the current economic crisis, our businesses are on the brink of disaster almost every day without so much as a sound bite. That is, of course, unless an emergency reminds us that we should start planning for the next catastrophe. Unfortunately once the initial fear from the fire, earthquake, flood or (insert the emergency situation of your choice here), business owners go right back to their old habits and business continuity planning goes out the window. The statistics related to continuity planning tell a grim tale. Twenty-five percent of businesses do not reopen following a major disaster or emergency situation, according to the Institute for Business and Home Safety. For those businesses that do get back up and running, 40 percent go out of business within two years after suffering a disaster. VICA recently partnered with L.A. County Public Health and other business organizations to present disaster recovery planning workshops for small businesses. The planning team was troubled to discover that nearly half of the businesses in attendance did not have any kind of emergency plan. Running a business without a continuity plan is like operating without insurance you might be lucky and never need it, but if you do, you certainly want the best possible coverage. One would hope a savvy business owner would never run the risk. Business owners network, hire marketing consultants, follow industry news, but neglect to take simple steps to protect their investment from a disaster. To use the business community vernacular, the bottom line is that business owners need to do everything they can to maintain their company. They have a responsibility to employees, vendors, clients, customers and the larger community. Ensuring that your business can remain in operation during and following an emergency is crucial. How horrible it would be to survive one of the most turbulent economic environments in recent history to have your business closed by an earthquake or wildfire. Although earthquakes and wildfires are the disasters we are most familiar with in Southern California, there are many other potentially business-closing situations that are much more common. What would you do if your office building had a pipe burst that flooded your suite? How would you continue operating if one of your top employees was killed in a car crash? Could you keep your employees productive during a multiple-day power outage? Would you be able to meet the needs of your customers if one-third of your workforce was out sick because of a pandemic flu? If you do not know the answers to these questions there should be cause for concern. These are all very real situations that the average company could easily experience. However, don’t panic just yet. They can be managed and mitigated with the proper preparation. The key to prevailing is planning. Many business owners expect the government will be available to help during a disaster. The reality is that unless there is a major life-threatening situation in your immediate area or your business is located at “ground-zero” of the emergency you are expected to fend for yourself. This is why it is so important to have a thorough continuity plan. Government entities do provide tools to help business owners develop a continuity plan and prepare for disasters. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security has an entire website devoted to business preparedness (www.ready.gov). You can also get information from the County of L.A.’s Office of Emergency Management or contact VICA to get information about upcoming disaster recovery workshops that will be delivered in concert with L.A. County Public Health and other business organizations. Tell us about your experience with disaster planning and preparedness. Does your business have a continuity plan? Have you survived a disaster and would like to share your story? Email your thoughts and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org .