Right now if you are living on the east coast, you have multiple significant storms heading your way that could unfortunately change your life for the worst. To curb against the danger of these storms, some states are actually advising evacuation of your home, if possible. As horrifying as leaving your home behind may sound, the tribulations of leaving something you built can be even worse if you operate an FFL (Federal Firearms Licensed) business. Then, in the event you return to your business, you need to deal with the repercussions of water damage and the potential loss of product. This alone is horrific enough, but then the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives), NFA (National Firearms Act Branch) or local police could be paying you a visit as well.
Nothing I am describing sounds positive. It just flatly sucks all around. There are things you can do to hedge against the downside of such a perfect storm of traumatic and financial loss though.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) recommends that all FFLs prepare a Disaster Preparedness Plan. FFLs have a two-fold interest in having a plan in place: the need to safeguard their business to facilitate a quick recovery and the need to protect the public from the risk of theft/loss of firearms and ammunition.
Records: FFL Disaster Preparedness
If you are currently operating an FFL, you already have bound books or an electronic copy to track the movement of all of your firearms in inventory. Many FFL owners understand that your electronic records can be fairly fluid. You could store them on back-up drives, a “Cloud” storage system or even a thumb-drive in some cases. If you have paper bound books, it would be advisable to bring them with you in the event you evacuate an area. If you decide to leave them on premise, at a bare minimum, they should be stored in a fire-proof and water-proof storage area.
Other records that many people may overlook though are your daily contacts. Contacts such as wholesalers, suppliers, manufacturers, shop work slips and insurance policies. All of these aforementioned records could probably be reproduced over an extended period of time, but if you return to your business and it has been looted or stands in 2 feet of water, you have more important things to worry about.
Like your firearm bound books, consider backing up all of this information electronically in multiple places. If you have this information strewn about your desk in the form of business cards, invoices and random sheets of paper you may need to shovel it all into a box and take it with you.
To the same extent that we own fire extinguishers, concealed carry handguns and seatbelts it will be better to have all of this paperwork and not need it… than to need all of that paperwork and not have it.
In some instances, it is necessary to contact the ATF to receive permission to move paper documents from your business premise. If you are unsure of anything, it is always best to give the ATF a call. Most of the men and women who answer those phones can give you quick and simple answers.
Employees: FFL Disaster Preparedness
Another thing to consider is your employees. You should already have most of their pertinent contact information somewhere, but you need to have that readily available. By maintaining a list of everyone’s phone numbers and valuable contact information, you can easily reach them to know they are safe; relay information as to the condition of your business; and if a disaster strikes without warning, you can contact them and direct them through chaos if you are not at your business.
Inventory: FFL Disaster Preparedness
Before disaster hits, you should do a self-audit of your inventory to make sure everything is accounted for. This should include not only firearms and NFA regulated items like silencers, but also other valuable inventory items. If you have high-end optics, electronics or other high-dollar items they should be safely stored away and have strong record keeping backing them for insurance purposes.
The utilization of safes, cable locks, alarms and camera systems can go a long way. This does not mean it has to be a new, incurred cost for the business either. Do you sell safes? Use your floor models to safely store valuable inventory in the event of a disaster that requires you leaving.
If you have enough time to prepare for a disaster like a hurricane try to relocate valuable inventory, if possible. FFLs are often encouraged to inform the ATF if inventory is moved, but it is not mandatory. If time is not available or it escapes your thoughts, do what is best to preserve your business and hedge against loss.
Insurance: FFL Disaster Preparedness
It is also important to review the current insurance policy that you may have. Many insurance policies do not cover natural disasters. Consider bolstering your insurance policy so you are adequately covered. Also, by sitting down with your insurance advisor they can give you a lot of valuable advice as to what you can do to best protect your business and appropriately report losses if they were to occur.
Security: FFL Disaster Preparedness
For those who find themselves in the unfortunate event of combating a hurricane, you might be boarding up windows and taking other weather precautions, but security against looting is equally important. Make sure you have security cameras that are modern and have an ability to back up recordings for a long period of time. Many security systems will only retain 2 weeks’ worth of footage before overwriting that data and it is lost for good. If you are robbed, you want to have that precious footage available to you in the event you are away from your business for a long period of time.
Consider even having multiple security systems. If one fails you will still have other cameras and alarms still working for you. Also, a backup battery or electricity source should be factored in. If the power goes out, that makes your business sadly an easier target for thieves. If you work with a security company for these services, similar to your insurance advisor, it would be worthwhile meeting with a representative from that company to discuss any additional precautions you may need to take.
If you are starting from square one with your security think of these measures:
- Steel grid against windows, vents or potential entrances to your business
- Extremely well-lit parking lot and area surrounding the building
- Bolstered door locks with reinforced hinges and frames
- Alarm system with accompanying security cameras
- Ask area law enforcement to routinely patrol your parking lot, if possible. Do shift changes in your parking lot. Park in your lot while doing paperwork or eating meals in their vehicles.
- Place cement posts, bollards or even enormous potted plants in front of your store to deter smash ‘n grabs with vehicles driving through your building
There are always countless things you can do to ward off those who seek to threaten your business. The thing to keep in mind is the harder you make it for crooks to attack your business the less likely they will be to attempt anything in the first place. Every preventative measure you can take will help.
Survive the Storm
When it comes to weathering a hurricane, tornado, wild fire or any other natural disaster it is always important to keep perspective. Ensure your loved ones stay safe first and everything else can come second. If your loved ones are your family members, pets or you are a bachelor/bachelorette and it’s just your personal firearms, take care of your immediate family first. In the end, you will both metaphorically and literally survive the storm, and having your family, pet by your side or knowing you saved family heirloom firearms could keep you mentally strong in the aftermath.
From all of us at TFB… our hearts, prayers and thoughts go out to anyone confronting all of the impending tropical storms headed for the east coast.
If you, our readers, have any other suggestions, we would be glad to hear them. Please share your thoughts in the Comments below. TFB and other readers will appreciate your input as well.