September was National Preparedness Month and a perfect time to reflect on the importance of preparedness. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 40 percent of businesses struck by a disaster never reopen, and of those that do reopen, 25 percent close within two years. Additionally, a survey conducted by the American Red Cross found nearly 60 percent of Americans are not prepared for a disaster of any kind. In a continued effort to promote disaster preparedness, Grainger and the American Red Cross share practical tips to help businesses get prepared.

• Build a plan.  An effective disaster response plan always starts with a risk analysis to help prioritize the most essential elements for your business. The plan should have clearly defined processes and procedures to quickly move employees to action.

• Compile supply kits.  As part of planning, stage emergency kits with the basic supplies needed in the event of a disaster to keep employees warm, dry, and hydrated, and to treat minor injuries.  Examples include hand sanitizer, water, hand warmers, and a blanket.

• Prepare employees. While preparing your business is important, any emergency planning first starts with personal preparedness. In addition to First Aid and CPR/AED training, the American Red Cross provides a variety of resources to help individuals prepare themselves, their homes and their families. For more information on personal preparedness visit: Be Red Cross Ready.

• Establish partners. Establish local partnerships that include key organizations such as police, fire, Red Cross, FEMA, utilities, skilled trades and local emergency planning officials. These relationships will help create a powerful network of preparedness in your community.

• Practice the plan.  Simply having a plan is not enough. Create venues for employees to test the plan by holding mock drills and emergency simulations.

• Leverage Resources. There are many free resources available to businesses to help with emergency planning. The Red Cross Ready Rating Program provides a free, self-guided curriculum designed to help businesses, organizations and schools become better prepared for emergencies. Members complete a 123-point self assessment of their level of preparedness, gain access to tips and best practices, and commit to improving their score each year. The Red Cross Ready When the Time Comes corporate volunteer program trains employees before a disaster strikes. Through this program, more than 460 organizations and companies in 52 cities have trained 13,000 employees as Red Cross volunteers to help their local communities.

"Grainger is committed to helping support businesses and communities with their preparedness activities," said Patti Julius, Marketing Strategy Manager, Emergency Preparedness, Grainger. "While all businesses are at risk for emergencies, the potential loss and speed to "return to normal" can be reduced by effective planning before disaster strikes."

"Businesses and schools may face a number of emergencies that could disrupt their operations, including hurricanes and floods, power outages and flu outbreaks," said Dr. David Markenson, chair, American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council. "Every person, business and school should be prepared to take care of themselves and their neighbors in an emergency, and businesses, organizations and families should prepare ahead of time so people will know what to do and have what they need during a crisis. Encouraging employees to prepare their households may increase their chances of being available to help your business during emergencies."