Before Disaster Strikes: Be Prepared for Natural Disasters
By Mary Beth Swayne
It's important for embroidery shops, whether large or small, to be prepared for whatever catastrophes
may come their way. "Small and medium-sized businesses are the most vulnerable to natural disasters
that will paralyze their business operations," says Erin Streeter, acting director of the U.S. Department
of Homeland Security's Ready Campaign. "If shop owners have an emergency plan, they can protect
their company and maximize its potential to survive and recover after an incident."
"To not back up your data is the worst. My number one recommendation is backups," says Drew Coufal,
Akron, OH-based owner of Sew & Sew Embroidery. Coufal's plan involves a complete backup of all his
designs, logos, artwork and accounting software onto a server weekly. The server updates the master
files daily. "Even if you just do it once a week at worst case you're a week behind. That's manageable -
it's not fun, but it's manageable," he says.
Ginny Fineberg, owner of Wildwood Crest, NJ-based Sandpiper Embroidery, says that at least once a
week, "someone's calling for something they got five years ago and don't have a copy of it." Fineberg
backs up all her data; she has thousands of designs that are backed up on disk if something should
happen to her computer or if someone requests a duplicate purchase. Plus, she's got backups in other
locations in case her shop is destroyed or inaccessible.
After you check that your insurance policy covers natural disasters, take a look around the office. Do
you have emergency supplies? In Coufal's area there are "blackouts out of the blue," he says. "We
have lights on battery backup that provide enough light, so if a customer is there, or you're doing
something, you're not in the pitch black." Other important things to have around include flashlights and
a first-aid kit. Make sure you and your employees know where the emergency exits are.
Depending on the area, if the fear of earthquakes, landslides, hurricanes and volcanic eruptions
weren't enough to send you packing your needles and thread, there are also other catastrophes to
worry about. "The roof could collapse, a truck could go through the building or a gas line could break,"
Fineberg adds theft to the list. One time, Sandpiper Embroidery's 4,000 stock designs were sewn out
and in the trunk of the artist's car. The car's automatic trunk malfunctioned, leaving the trunk unlatched.
"The designs were all in leather bags and someone stole them," Fineberg says. "They cost about
$20,000." Although this was Fineberg's biggest disaster, she was paid in full for the lost designs.
When Coufal moved his business into its current location, the roof hadn't been sealed correctly so he
put plastic over all the equipment. Coufal always has plastic around in case the roof decides to cave in.
"It's only a temporary, couple-day fix, but at least you have something to protect your equipment until
you get it resolved," he says.
From small problems such as a burned-out light bulb to the next Hurricane Katrina, it is important to be
prepared. "America's businesses form the backbone of the nation's economy," Streeter says. "Small
businesses alone account for more than 99% of all companies with employees. So if businesses are
ready to survive and recover, then our nation and economy will be more secure. Most shop owners and
business owners are in communities where the quicker the businesses are able to come back, the more
resilient the community will be if a disaster should occur."
"I think most people would be pretty forgiving in a [disaster] and want to help you and make sure you
get back on your feet so you don't lose your business or your job," Coufal says.