Smouldering Buildings

By Beacon Staff

It’s a perfect morning.

You hit the local coffee roasters for your morning java, spending a little time with the local paper as you down your first cup.

Before long, it’s time for work. You’ve got a full day planned.

As you aim your rig toward downtown, your thoughts turn toward the day’s ToDo list. You pull into a parking space on this crisp Montana morning, grab your coffee mug and head down the sidewalk toward your city center business.

As you turn the corner, you see it and freeze.

There’s a huge smoking hole where your business used to be.

Your lifestyle, your income, your business records, your product and everything necessary to do business is invested or located in a place that has become a swirling chimney of smoke.

Sounds like a bad dream caused by too much late night frozen pizza – unless your business is in Bozeman or Whitehall.

Think back a few years to the Y2K scenario. Prior to January 1st 2000, the news was full of doom and gloom stories about how sensors would fail and programming would go berserk and cause all sorts of problems.

Missiles and/or flying pigs would rain down on the earth. There’d be cats and dogs living together, fire and brimstone, disaster and pestilence around every corner. We heard it all.

And yet… nothing major actually happened.

When nothing happened on January 1st 2000, some of that same news media held out the Y2K problem as if it were some sort of pork project made up by a Senator from West Virginia.

Yet that week, a lot of people got a good night’s sleep for the first time in 18 months or more.

See, nothing major actually happened for a very good reason and it wasn’t about pork.

The reason Y2K never melted down our technology infrastructure and took our lifestyles with it?

Because billions of dollars were spent to get tens of thousands of programmers, engineers and others burning the midnight oil for two or more years, chasing, finding, fixing and testing software and the programming (“firmware”) embedded in automated devices.

For the first time I can remember, our country was well-prepared for a disaster, despite not talking about it until about 1994.

To be sure, all that money and time was spent fixing many things that probably shouldn’t have broken, but the combination of the limitations of emerging technology from the 1970s and 1980s and the optimism that programming created in 1974 would never be in use 26 years later was pretty ugly.

Thankfully, we were able to invest the time and the money to correct that problem before it resulted in mayhem and worse, paychecks and bills dated 100 years in the past.

Even the Feds and states managed to resolve their part of the problem. A firm deadline had a lot to do with all of that (a secondary lesson for us all).

Nine years later, I wondered to myself if the businesses directly affected by this month’s explosion and fire would be open in six months.

It’s a question you should be asking yourself as well.

If an explosion like the one that occurred in downtown Bozeman destroyed your business location, would it also destroy your business?

If a fire ripped through your offices like the fire in Whitehall, would it also torch your business?

Could you recover?

It doesn’t help much to have insurance to replace your building when you don’t have the temporary cash flow to replace supplies and inventory, make payroll and put a temporary office together.

Even the best prepared business owners will face surprises.

One of the biggest issues that businesses face when these things happen is that their data is destroyed.

Customer lists, outstanding orders, receivables, you name it. Paper burns, computers melt.

If you can’t easily recover this information, you’re not only starting over, but your existing customers are likely to assume you’re toast – and without their contact info, you’re poorly armed to refute that assertion.

You need a step-by-step disaster recovery plan. You need off-site backup for your important computer data. You need to chat with your insurance agent.


Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him at [email protected].