PUBLISHED: 10:00 AM on Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Is your business ready for the worst day?

  Lee Leschper
Bad things happen to good people. And to good businesses.

So this Saturday the Juneau Small Business Development Center, the Juneau Empire and Capital City Weekly, AEL&P, the City and Borough of Juneau, and the U.S. Small Business Administration, are sponsoring a day devoted to the day we hope never comes.

For most of us, who we are and dream to be is part and parcel with the organization, the business, the working family we have created through sweat, tears and a lot of sleepless nights.

And it can be at risk in an instant.

The seminar, about preparing your business for emergencies or disaster, will be Saturday, at the Egan Center Lecture Hall at the University of Alaska Southeast campus, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., with breakfast and lunch provided.

There's a small donation of $25 to the American Red Cross in lieu of registration.

The day's program includes panels and speakers providing information on local, state and Federal agencies resources - what agencies can, and won't, provide. Information about utilities, banking, insurance, transportation and communications will be included.

There will also be hands-on recommendations on developing your own disaster plan, for your business.

Think you're prepared for anything?

What have you done to be prepared for the worst?

Here's a sobering statistic - 78 percent of small businesses struck by a disaster will fail.

Pardon me one Texas story as an example.

A dear old friend from my days at Texas A&M University worked most of his career with the fire department in Bryan, Texas, primarily as an EMT.

"Most Alaskan communities are connected to the outside world and each other by a very thin, fragile supply line."

Over the years he became concerned about how Bryan and its twin city College Station would handle a major disaster. So he started drawing contingency plans and lists of the tools the community might need in the event of a disaster - anything from a tornado to a flood. His list included basics like generators, tools, chain saws, water.

Then he went around to the local hardware, lumber and grocery stories, with a simple request: "Keep the list handy. If something bad enough to need your help ever happens, you'll know we need you. Pull out the list and do what you can to get these things to where they are needed."

A few years later, that need came.

Late one November night, the Aggie Bonfire at Texas A&M, a 50-foot stack of giant logs, collapsed, killing 12 college students and trapping many more under tons of timber.

Emergency crews including our friend worked frantically to free those young people, many crushed to a pulp and others with arms, legs or bodies pinned beneath that mass of wood.

Within an hour, trucks loaded with tools and supplies of every sort - the wish list that was prepared and distributed years before - were arriving at the site. Those tools helped save lives.

Last week's tragedy in New York, in which two people were killed in an airplane crash into a tall building, points out the risks for a city dependent on air travel, as we are.

But you don't have to reach that far.

Just look at the flooding which has isolated Valdez this past week.

Most Alaskan communities are connected to the outside world and each other by a very thin, fragile supply line.

It's part of our life.

It also makes us very vulnerable, especially in the winter months.

In the Southeast we're dependent on air and ferry service for everything from food to fuel to the paper this newspaper is printed on. A shutdown in Seattle, for example, will quickly cut into essential services. But it need not be an emergency that strikes the entire town.

A fire or a flood is just as devastating to one business, whether the rest of the community is involved or not.

As one of my colleagues pointed out the other day, it's not the first 24 hours when we're putting out the fires or pushing back the flood waters, that makes the difference.

It's the next days, months and weeks, as we try to put our business back on its feet and back into profitable shape.

And that's where the preparation comes in.

Can you restore your records and be back in business quickly?

Can you get your employees paid and provide for essentials they need for their family?

Is your insurance current and accurate?

How long can you operate with your current inventory?

Invest a Saturday and be prepared.


For more information call Karen Wilke at the SBDC at 463-3789 or email Register online at, by clicking on the "training" button.

Leschper is general manager of the Capital City Weekly and regional advertising director for Morris Communications newspapers in Alaska. Email him at