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Classes Ready Businesses for Worst

4/10/2008 12:00 AM

J.J. Ruffino knows the toll unexpected events can take on a business.

In the past month, J.J.'s liquor stores in Bryan and College Station have been hit by robbers twice.

"Thank God they did not take a huge amount of cash in either one of these robberies," Ruffino said, noting that the losses were covered by insurance.

Most businesses are unprepared for a burglary or a range of other threats, said Sam Cox, training manager for the industrial security program and public safety and security division of the Texas Engineering Extension Service.

Cox is the content developer for two new courses being offered through the Continuing and Professional Studies Office at Texas A&M University that are designed to prepare business owners for the worst.

A vulnerability assessment course, which costs $795 and will run from April 22-24 at Texas A&M, will teach business owners and personnel to identify and protect assets, such as key employees, records and information technology-related processes, Cox said.

A business continuity course, which will be held May 14-15 at Prairie View A&M University, will help businesses plan for their recovery in the aftermath of a major event, he said. Enrollment is $625.

Cox said the vulnerability assessment course will address ways, such as buying insurance, to reduce the impact of unexpected events.

"You might buy $100,000 worth of insurance," he said, "but maybe you aren't buying enough."

Ruffino said he didn't have enough insurance to cover a major theft 15 years ago.

"We had an inside job with an employee that decided to stay inside my store New Year's Eve," Ruffino said. "He had access to a great deal of cash, and it had a huge impact on us."

After that, Ruffino said, he increased his insurance coverage, which includes treatment for trauma to his employees. Ruffino said his stores also have security cameras and established safety procedures for employees to follow.

He declined to say how much money was stolen during the three incidents.

Jim Pillans, director of the Brazos Valley Small Business Development Center, said small businesses face different challenges than larger ones when faced with a major problem.

"In a small business, normally the owner is so busy they don't have the time or resources to plan for major disasters that could happen," Pillans said. "With large companies, there are more backups, and they might have the facilities to get back into operation in case something happens."

The business continuity course, Cox said, will focus on recovery after a major event.

"Businesses have to know how to be resilient and how to survive," Cox said. "The class will help you plan to create a transition phase that will get you into a recovery phase."

Continuity, Cox said, can include having backup offices or anything that ensures a seamless transition for customers.

Cox said the classes are relevant for a broad range of individuals, from human resources and safety directors to IT personnel, engineers and law enforcement. Both classes count toward continuing education credits.

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Kathy Fraser

Associate Director of Marketing and Communications

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