SBA, Nationwide push disaster awareness
The Small Business Administration said it’s rolling out a guide to help bring more companies up to date on how to survive a natural catastrophe.

The SBA, along with Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., is releasing the disaster guide as a “template or a primer for businesses to use to craft their own plan,” said Carol Chastang, a spokeswoman for the SBA.

The news comes days after a Long Island survey showed 70 percent of area companies aren’t prepared for a disaster. More than 25 percent of small businesses in the United States don’t reopen after an event such as a hurricane, tornado or flood.

On a regional level, small business advocates said the lack of disaster preparedness is a major issue.

“It should be a No. 1 priority for small businesses. The problem is, it’s not,” said Vincent Henry, director of the Homeland Security Management Institute at Long Island University.

Henry said planning is often pushed aside because there is no immediate need.

“There’s a lot of finger crossing by small businesses,” he said. “It’s a huge area of vulnerability.”

Gloria Glowacki, assistant director at Stony Brook University’s Small Business Development Center, said smaller firms aren’t procrastinating – they just don’t have the time or resources to prepare.

Thus, Henry said, mom-and-pop shops are more susceptible to shutting down after a disaster.

“Even if a business is prepared, it still has to worry about its suppliers, accountant and customers,” Henry said. “No business operates in isolation, it’s a cascading effect.”

The 10-page SBA guide will be distributed by regional offices, SBA’s resource partners, its disaster field offices and by Nationwide agents.

Glowacki will help with the Long Island distribution. She wants to use the SBA guide as the framework for disaster planning workshops for small businesses at Stony Brook.

According to the Census Bureau, 81,000 small businesses in Louisiana were damaged by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. By 2006, about 75 percent of those businesses were able to reopen, but 19,000 shut their doors for good after the storms.

The SBA dolled out about $2 billion in disaster recovery loans to damaged small businesses, but that funding is estimated to have gone to just 38 percent of businesses who applied for federal assistance.

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