Catastrophes happen on a daily basis, and all companies must have a plan in place to stay in business. You might be a new company, with just a few months under your belt, and having invested your life savings to pursue your entrepreneurial dream. Or possibly you are a well-established, extremely successful business owner.

Either of these scenarios - and all those in between - could be at risk of survival if your business is destroyed. Often the destruction happens in seconds. A fire, earthquake, tornado or other disaster can and does happen.

Are you prepared? The Institute for Business and Home Safety states that when disasters force businesses to shut down, 25% will never reopen. So how do you keep your business afloat if you become a victim of a disaster?
A business continuity plan is essential. The Houston Area Research Center cites these statistics in support of the investment of time and money into creating a plan:
- 35–40 percent of businesses without a continuity plan never reopen when disrupted by a disaster.
- Every dollar spent on disaster preparedness saves $7 in recovering disaster related economic losses.

Your ability to reopen quickly is imperative. The sooner you are back in business, the less you'll suffer from lost revenues. Customers will be retained because they are aware you're down time will be minimal. And, extremely important, is how this will impact your employees. As a business owner, you'll want to get them all back to work so they don't experience a financial hardship on their families.
When creating your business continuity plan, there are many questions to ask and then answer. Here are my top 10:
1. What disasters could we face (natural and man-made)?
2. What operations are critical to open quickly?
3. Do we have a data backup in place to be able to access our records from any location?
4. Who are our key resources (utilities, insurance agent, CPA, etc.)?
5. Who are our key suppliers and do they have a business continuity plan?
6. Do we have a relationship established to ensure we will be one of the first served if we ex-perience a wide-spread disaster (tornado or flood vs. one-building fire)?
7. Where can we set up a temporary location, and who will direct the process?
8. What supplies, inventory and equipment will be needed immediately?
9. Is our employee call chain up to date, and does each employee know what their role is in our disaster plan?
10. Do we have an inventory of all of our assets so we can complete an insurance claim quickly and thoroughly, and maximize the claim for proper financial recovery?

Though this is just the tip of the iceberg in business continuity planning, it is a good start to begin the necessary steps for preparedness. Without a plan, the odds are far greater that you will not re-open if you're forced to close. It can be a time-consuming process to complete a thorough business continuity plan. Investing in a firm to create it for you will ensure it is finalized quickly and professionally.

Author's Bio: 

Cindy Hartman is President of Hartman Inventory, a woman-owned business that provides business and home inventory services. She and her husband Mike also own Hartman Inventory Systems, a complete turnkey home inventory business package for those who want to establish their own inventory company. Cindy is also principal of Business Continuity Planning Specialists, which was created with the small business owners' needs and budgets in mind. Cindy writes a blog and is a freelance writer on topics of disaster preparedness and recovery, small business, product reviews, marketing and networking.