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Neighbors of Kane County

Shhhh, don't say the word... disaster

Jan 29, 2016 04:08PM ● By Neighbors Magazines

by Marianne Messina

The biscuits were baking and the table was set.  Our Mother's Day brunch guests were behind schedule when my cell phone shrilled.  "Oh, oh", I thought.  "Something's wrong."

The call was not from our tardy children but from a business neighbor.  "I didn't know you had a drive-thru CPA firm," he attempted to jest.  "Sorry, but someone just drove their SUV through the side of your building;  she hit the gas meters, and the fire department is here dumping tons of water into your space!"

While the physical damage to the office of Messina & Associates, Ltd. was horrific, the water damage was most destructive, truly challenging our livelihood;  files, computers, equipment, furnishings...all destroyed.  

"Something's wrong" ultimately turned out to be that we had no plan for a business disaster such as this.

I'm not one to preach, and I pray that this will never happen to you, but please, ASSUME THAT IT WILL HAPPEN TO YOU.  Don't be as unprepared as we were.  Your time will be well spent if you do some organization now:

  • Don't let your insurance renewals be on autopilot.  Work with a professional insurance agent or broker to determine you have enough coverage.  (We're still not sure our coverage is sufficient!)
  • Be aware of what you have to lose.  (I know.  Easier said than done.  But we had to virtually recreate our office.)

               *know the contents of your office, your work space, your vehicle

               *know how much equipment you have;  how much inventory you have

               *know how much it would cost to replace what you have

               *know how much "little stuff" you have (office supplies, cleaning supplies, paper

                products, etc.);  it all adds up to "big stuff"

Use technology to give you an advantage.  SCAN all of your important documents;  be descriptive in your bookkeeping (writing checks, bill paying).

Be absolutely sure you are working with the best vendors out there. Your IT vendor is critical!

Hopefully, disaster will never find its way to your door.  In the sad case that it does:

  • Don't panic.  Go slow.
  • Talk with your insurance agent/broker;  request names of others who have had catastrophe claims for guidance.
  • Be cautious when signing contracts during the first critical days of your disaster.  Research any disaster recovery firms, or any attorneys that show-up on site.
  • If you borrowed against your assets, know that the insurance payout will go to pay the bank loan.
  • Call your banker and keep him in the loop.

Fast forward eight months.  We've had a few uneventful (whew!)  holiday since our Mother's Day disaster.  With the dedication, inventiveness and loyalty of our fabulous staff, friends and family, Messina & Associates, Ltd. has been able to move back into our renovated office.  

We still have a long way to go dealing with the formalities and business impact attached to our disaster.  But we are moving forward and able to begin the 2016 tax season.  Here's hoping this never happens to you, but please take care.