For a dealership to rebound from a disaster, it must have a recovery plan.

“The overall goal of a disaster recovery plan is to return your business to normal operations as quickly as possible,” says Jeff Lubberts, director-major loss for Universal Underwriters Insurance Co., specializing in insurance for auto dealerships. “A recovery plan helps businesses maintain cash flow, protect employees, keep customer relations positive and retain their client base.”

While property insurance will repair or replace facilities, interruptions in business operations can cause lost customers, employees and vendors, he notes.

Businesses should review their insurance policies and ensure they have the proper coverage in place.

“During last year's Gulf storms, many homes and businesses were affected by flood damage,” says Lubberts. “The tragic part of this storm damage is that many of these businesses and homes did not have flood insurance and all or much of their loss was not covered.”

While reviewing their insurance policies, Lubberts encourages businesses to take into account even those things they see as low to medium risk.

After reviewing all insurance policies, businesses can create a disaster recovery plan by following these steps:

• Identify disaster exposures. Disasters can be natural, man-made and political.

• Identify any potential hazards, such as fire, flood, tornados and the loss of an important supplier.

• Identify critical personnel, equipment and data. “Critical” refers to any employee, piece of equipment or data a business needs to function. Evaluate all aspects of your business to determine what elements must be in place to return to normal quickly.

• Collect information. Create a list of every piece of information important to your business. This list should include inventories, telephone numbers, equipment listings, vendor lists, software inventory and other important items. It should be stored in a secure location, accessible from outside the company's building.

• Develop a formal, written disaster recovery plan. All of the above information should be incorporated into a plan that identifies specific disaster scenarios, steps that will protect a business prior to the disaster and instructions for getting operations back to normal as quickly and efficiently as possible.

• Test the plan. Test the plan initially to ensure it has accounted for everything necessary in a disaster. Review and update the plan annually and as exposures to loss change.

Businesses can get help in creating a disaster recovery plan. Insurance companies can work with customers to ensure their plans are effective.

Other resources and their websites are the Institute for Business and Home Safety Web site (www.ibhs.org), Disaster Recovery Journal (www.drj.com), American Red Cross (www.redcross.org) and National Emergency Management Association (www.nemaweb.org).

For more information on creating a disaster recovery plan for your business,, go to www.universalunderwriters.com, click on online resources, and access the Loss Prevention Library.