There’s a day, a week or a month for everything these days. Some designations, of course, are more important than others. A designation I hope all of you will heed is this September’s National Preparedness Month.

No one wants to believe something terrible will happen to them. But sometimes it does. I witnessed quite a bit of devastation this year as I traveled in the U.S. Small Business Administration Region VII states of Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas. Floods, tornados and high winds created the most pandemonium, destroying many homes and businesses and leaving many people feeling distraught and overwhelmed.

 If you own a business, just imagine stepping into or close to your store, restaurant, office or warehouse a day or two after a tornado has passed or after the floodwaters have receded. For thousands of business owners, this scenario was more than just imagined. It was a reality that left them to deal with the heartbreak of picking up the pieces in the aftermath of a disaster, and with a whole host of unanswered questions.

That’s why you need to know about the SBA and the importance of disaster preparedness.

In the wake of a declared disaster, the SBA assists in the rebuilding of communities by providing affordable, timely loans covering uninsured losses to businesses of all sizes, nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters. In the last year in Region VII, 1,423 people were offered these types of loans for a total of more than $85.6 million.

Following a disaster, individuals and businesses can register at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or visit www.SBA.gov/Disaster to see the types of federal assistance for which they are eligible. In large federally declared disasters, SBA Office of Disaster Assistance staff will open Disaster Recovery Centers and Business Recovery Centers to the public. Anyone can call the SBA at 1-800-659-2955 or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov for instructions after a disaster.

Hopefully, you will never have to use the SBA’s post-disaster resources.

Much can be done before a disaster strikes to increase the chances of safety for your family, employees and property. Being prepared for any kind of emergency means you’ll rebound sooner with less financial impact. Besides causing untold personal and home losses, major disasters are the cause of an estimated 25% of businesses never re-opening. I urge you to think ahead and put a disaster preparedness plan in place.

The SBA’s website at www.sba.gov/node/4633 offers excellent information on setting up emergency and disaster plans. The 30 days in September are an important time to create or update yours.

Tom Salisbury is the regional administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration Region VII, which covers Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska. He previously worked as the small-business liaison for U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt and in lending for UMB Bank. Salisbury can be reached at thomas.salisbury@sba.gov.

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