- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 8, 2014

KEARNEY, Neb. (AP) - The American Red Cross is using its free Ready Rating plan to help businesses in Nebraska and other states prepare for severe weather and other disasters.

American Red Cross disaster program manager Johnny Jones in Kearney asked people attending a recent chamber of commerce workshop whether their businesses were ready for the worst. Up to 40 percent of businesses fail after a natural or man-made disaster, Jones said.

Spring storms have yet to leave behind any major damage in Nebraska, but tornadoes, heavy rain and howling straight-line winds were blamed for at least one death and several reports of flooding and damage across parts of the Southeast on Monday.

“Disasters can be wildfires, floods, snowstorms, hazardous materials, tornadoes - trouble of any kind,” Jones said. “Do you have a plan? Do your suppliers have a plan?”

A company’s most important resources are its employees and its customers, he said. “The time to prepare is now.”

The Ready Rating plan is available online and includes an assessment survey of 123 questions, the Kearney Hub said (http://bit.ly/R0qiCx ).

Three basic steps are essential in disaster preparation, Jones said: assembling supplies, making and practicing an evacuation plan, and becoming informed.

In addition, he said, a good emergency response plan covers situations before, during and after emergencies.

As of March, Jones said, around 4,000 businesses and nonprofit organizations had signed up to earn the Red Cross‘ Ready Rating designation. He said the site has been endorsed by the U.S. departments of defense and homeland security and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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Information from: Kearney Hub, http://www.kearneyhub.com/