A veteran of locust invasions in Arizona, blizzards and avalanches in Colorado, and earthquakes in San Francisco, Regina Phelps has made a living out of not flirting with disaster but slapping it in the face.

The president of San Francisco-based Emergency Management & Safety Solutions travels across the United States to seminars and, more often, to one company at a time, trying to get America’s workforce to think about the best way to respond to situations that disrupt normal business procedures.

In a daylong seminar Wednesday at Holmes Murphy & Associates Inc., 3001 Westown Parkway, West Des Moines, Phelps will address hazard analysis, business-impact analysis, emergency-response plans, business-continuity plans, disaster recovery and related topics.

Business owners on the coasts tend to worry about potential disasters, and history suggests they have good reason to do so. However, “in my 24 years of doing this, I’ve found that Midwest firms in general don’t have business-continuity plans that are as robust as those on the coasts,” Phelps said. “They say, ‘Gosh, we haven’t had much happen.’”

Phelps will be here to remind Central Iowans that you can be a thousand miles from hurricane danger and still get knocked out of business by a broken water main. Then what?

“Most people don’t think about this at all,” Phelps said in a telephone interview. “There’s an overall lack of planning in general; at smaller and mid-size companies, resources are scarce, so they can’t allocate the time and money” to figuring out a business-continuity plan.

An immediate return to normal isn’t necessarily the best goal for every company. However, management should decide such things ahead of time.

“When you do a business-impact analysis, the company can look at it and say, ‘If we’re not up in 48 hours, we’ll lose X number of dollars, we might be in legal trouble and we might have substantial reputational damage,’” Phelps said. “Then they can justify their choice of expenditures. Otherwise, you’re shooting blind. A lot of companies don’t need to be up right away, and the faster you have to recover your business, the more expensive it is.”