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Businesses urged to prep for disaster

Verna Cornelia Price at the conference

Verna Cornelia Price at the conference Photo Credit: Newsday / Ed Betz

Summer is close by, and Long Island business owners and executives should be thinking, not of vacations, but of hurricanes and other disasters, according to the Long Island chapter of the Association of Contingency Planners, which held its third annual business preparedness meeting at the Hyatt Regency Windwatch in Islandia Friday.

The big question of the event: Are businesses prepared for hurricanes or other disasters?

Most are not, said Andrew Weitzberg, president of the national organization’s Long Island chapter. Why are they not prepared? “They look on it as overhead,” Weitzberg said in an interview. “It’s an expense. But it could mean” the survival of the business.

Richard J. Gimbl, director of emergency management in Islip Town, offered the audience of about 150 business people some sobering statistics, culled from the national organization’s research. Seventy-eight percent of companies nationwide that suffer some type of catastrophe — natural or otherwise — and do not have a plan to deal with the damage are out of business within two years; 90 percent of companies unable to open their doors within five days of a disaster are gone within a year.

If statistics were not enough to wake up the crowd, Verna Cornelia Price, above, founder and president of the organizational consulting firm J. Cameron & Associates in Minneapolis, delivered a near gospel-style speech about getting it together at the company to protect the business and lives.

“You cannot always stick with the status quo,” said Price, moving quickly about the front of the room. “The status quo doesn’t always work. Are your people ready? Do people in your organization even speak to one another?”

All this is important, Price said, in feeling a sense of togetherness, belonging and teamwork that will help put together a disaster plan and see it through if need be.

And Joann Dobrowolski, owner of YPI Consultants Llc in Melville, who among other things teaches communication skills, offered some advice about speaking to the media after a disaster: Avoid ‘‘no comment.’’

“It looks like you’re hiding something,” she said.

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