Helping Hands

By William C. Gillis

In the days following the terrorist attacks of September 11, Americans slowly resumed their daily routines and got back to work. For those businesses affected physically and economically by the disaster, getting back wasn’t so easy. Hundreds of businesses in the New York City and Washington, D.C. areas were faced with the task of recovery.

But with a few helping hands – both private and public – businesses can successfully pull through a tragedy. The Small Business Administration (SBA) operates two disaster-relief loan programs for businesses. Physical disaster loans of up to $1.5 million are available to all businesses that have incurred physical damage in a disaster area to repair or replaced damaged property. Economic injury loans are available to businesses with 500 employees or fewer that can demonstrate substantial economic injury as a result of a disaster.

At press time, the SBA had approved nearly 220 disaster loans of about $21 million to businesses affected by the September 11 tragedies. Carol Chastang, a spokesperson for the SBA’s office of disaster services, says that the agency has received thousands of referrals from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which operates a toll-free line for businesses seeking assistance at 1-800-462-9029. Chastang says businesses that fall prey to a man-made or natural disaster should contact FEMA right away to speed up the loan process. “We encourage people to apply for help as quickly as they can,” Chastang says.

Private companies have also provided assistance to businesses struggling to get back on their feet. IBM, for example, has provided its customers with temporary office space, staffers, computers, and in some instances, an entire IT framework. Pat Corcoran, a development executive with IBM’s business continuity and recovery services program, says that IBM began responding to customer calls minutes after the World Trade Center attacks occurred.

“When we saw how severe the situation was, we put our emergency center on alert,” Corcoran says. “We have over 1,200 clients in that immediate two-block area.” Corcoran’s team found temporary office space for businesses in and outside Manhattan, and even provided space at its Sterling Forest, N.Y.-based recovery center, situated 40 miles northwest of New York City.

Corcoran says that all businesses need to plan ahead for a disaster. “Every company has to look at their business and identify what’s really critical,” he says. “You just can’t look at IT. Ask yourself how long you can be without the information critical to your business. Bottom line, you realize you have to come together and work as a team.” Sounds like good advice not only for businesses, but for the entire nation.

In Other News

PICK ZERO: In October a Los Angeles judge issued a temporary injunction to block a lottery planned by NeuLevel, the .biz domain-name registry. NeuLevel’s lottery was designed to randomly determine which applicants would win the rights to contested .biz addresses – ones for which more than one party applied. Superior Court Judge Anthony Mohr also ordered NeuLevel to set aside $3 million in case the company is forced to refund applicants.

SAFETY DANCE: Are cell phones safe or not? A recent study of 1,600 people who survived brain tumors by a cancer specialist in Sweden found that people who had used mobile phones for more than five years during the late 1980s and early 1990s were 26 percent more likely to develop a brain tumor than those who did not.

VAIN SEARCH: The search engine AltaVista admitted in early September that no new Web pages had been added to the engine’s index since mid-April, meaning that any site created since then would not appear in a search done on the site. AltaVista blamed a major database merge project on the problem.

– W.C.G.

Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing addresses the technology needs of small businesses, which are defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees and/or less than $7 million in annual sales.
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