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By Carl Weinschenk

Nothing seems out bounds since the massive breakdown of civil services that characterized Hurricane Katrina last year. The summer is barely a month old, but significant power outages already have hit St. Louis and the New York City borough of Queens. Indeed, within the shadow of Shea Stadium, some homes and businesses are without power a full week after severe thunderstorms and high temperatures caused the power the outage.

The scariest issue is that nobody seems certain of precisely what is going on. New York has its share of high heat and thunderstorms every summer. Why should this year's storms knock power out for more than a week?

The inability to quickly get the problem solved—or even diagnosed—should serve as a wakeup call to small business people everywhere. It doesn’t take a massive, city-wide catastrophic failure to impact your business. You just need to be in the wrong neighborhood. Indeed, problems that are relatively isolated may well go on longer. After all, the power utility—Con Ed, in the New York situation—still had the rest of the city to worry about.

The inability to isolate the problem immediately suggests that it may in reality be a series of cascading problems, perhaps the result of decaying infrastructure. This suggests, in turn, that problems will occur with increasing frequency.

Some disasters are impossible to plan for. Small business owners in New Orleans had no chance against the wall of water than descended upon them last August. There is a lot that can be done, however. Small business owners clearly need a plan. They must establish relationships with emergency preparedness vendors and create organizational charts to provide structure when the emergency hits. Indeed, there are myriad details that extend to physical and online infrastructures. Now, not when the emergency hits, is the time to act.

Carl Weinschenk is the Editorial Director of SmartBiz.

Carl Weinschenk is the Editorial Director of SmartBiz.
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