FIU’s Small Business Development Center turned a disaster into big success

Written by Alejandra Chamorro/ Contributing writer

SBDC was presented two awards for their work on Bizaster, a disaster preparation app for businesses, by the Florida SBDC Network in Saint Augustine.

SBDC at FIU was awarded with Florida’s Best Practice of the Year Award and Florida’s Employee of the Year Award, Brian Van Hook said, the program’s associate director.

The Best Practice of the Year Award, he said, was given to the center for creating something “new and innovative from the standard work they normally do with disaster preparedness.”

Van Hook was also the one who received the Florida’s SBDC Employee of the Year Award for his contribution in helping small businesses grow and prosper.

He was given the award for his work on Bizaster and for leading a cyber security event with JP Morgan Chase.

“I was very honored to receive Florida’s SBDC Employee of the Year Award and also honored for the award I received from our regional center,” Van Hook said. “But it wasn’t just me. It was a team effort. The project is only good as the partners.”

Developed by SBDC at FIU, in collaboration with FIU’s Extreme Events Institute and the U.S. Agency for International Development, the goal of the app, according to Van Hook, is to protect businesses from disasters– such as tsunami’s or cyber security threats– by helping them create a specialized plan for each specific tragedy.

Available for free in English and Spanish for Android and iOS, the app, according to the app store’s description,  includes customizable checklists, disaster simulations and assessments that help identify a business’s risks.

The app created a way for businesses to plan for emergencies in a practical and portable way, he said,  instead of having “stacks of books and paperwork.”

“We wanted to give them something they can put in their hands, where they can fill in different checklists and different risk assessments,” Van Hook said.

“It was primarily developed for Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States,” Van Hook said. “But the cool thing is that it’s been used in Iraq, Columbia, Europe and United Kingdom.

Van Hook is proud of Bizaster’s success and how it’s helping businesses all over the world.

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