Having a smartphone that is capable of retrieving e-mails on your cell phone is a quick and easy way to keep up with your e-mail communications during a disaster. The fact is, if your phone system, broadband connection or cable modem is not functioning, cell service may still be available in certain areas. 

7. Physical office issues need to be considered. Have you given thought to how and where you will conduct business, work with staff and see clients in the event your office is inaccessible?

Many executive suite-type office operations offer cost-effective use of meeting room space. Contracting with such a location can be justified as a remote meeting location, for instance. However, in the event of a disaster, you would have temporary access to the location (presumably) for practice operations.

For example, two different companies, Premier Business Centers (www.pbcenters.com) and HQ Global Workplaces (www.hq.com), offer virtual office plans that provide mailing addresses, telephone reception services and conference room space starting at $95 per month. Depending on the location (PB Centers is mainly located in the western U.S., HQ is worldwide), you may also be able to use T1 Internet access, copier, fax and secretarial services. Furniture is provided as well. Another advantage of working with such companies is the potential use of their centers in other cities; www.executive-office-suites.us is a search service to executive office suite locations all over the U.S.

8. Have you written procedures for your employees to follow in the event of an emergency or disaster?

Some financial advisors have included these procedures in an employee manual. Items covered could include what to do in the event of a theft or fire; whom to call and how to shut down the office during an emergency or disaster; and how to transfer files, systems, phone lines, e-mail and other vital communication systems.

Periodically reviewing these procedures with your employees will keep the information fresh in everyone's mind.

If you live and work in an area with a higher risk for specific natural disasters, you may have the luxury of knowing the season for flooding, tornados, wildfires, hurricanes, severe snowstorms, mudslides, etc. However, disaster can strike in many forms. For instance, in addition to the threat of hurricanes, Florida, among other states, faces sinkholes, which could collapse a building. There is no season for that. Theft, vandalism, Internet viruses and fires generally do not have a season either. As Benjamin Franklin once said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." It is far cheaper to implement these eight suggestions than to pay to clean up and restore all the damage done (not to mention lost time and revenue) caused by a disaster.

David Lawrence, AIF (Accredited Investment Fiduciary), is a practice efficiency consultant and is president of David Lawrence and Associates (www.efficientpractice.com), a practice-consulting firm based in Lutz, Fla. David Lawrence is a much sought-after public speaker on a variety of leadership, financial and technical topics. For details, visit www.davidlawrencespeaks.com.

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