January, 2003
News in Brief
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

Marketing Tip


Collect customer testimonials. Ask a few of your most satisfied customers to write letters detailing their experiences with your company. Select the best of the lot and create a one-page sheet. Be sure to insert these testimonial sheets in your marketing packets. Also, don’t forget to post these glowing comments on your Web site. Let your potential customers know just how good you are.

New NIST tool helps smallbusinesses protect IT systems

Protecting electronic information and data is vital to the success of any company. But, small businesses are especially vulnerable because they often do not have the staff or resources to constantly monitor their information technology systems.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) e-Scan Security Assessment is an online diagnostic tool that can assist small businesses in determining how well their company’s information technology systems are protected against failure or intrusion. The e-Scan tool also will provide recommendations to correct security problems. The tool is available free-of-charge at https://cip.nist.gov/sat/.

The easy-to-use tool asks a series of questions in 11 critical security areas, including computer virus protection, computer system physical environment, potential computer system mechanical failures, back-up policies and procedures, and IT contingency planning. Once the assessment is completed, the tool provides a report that specifies how well a business scores in all 11 of the areas and provides suggested improvements.

For more information on the e-Scan tool, contact Rick Korchak, 301- 975-8323, richard.korchak@nist.gov.

NIST device helps industry reach ‘weathering’ heights

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), along with some of NIST’s industry and government partners recently unveiled a revolutionary device to determine accurately and quickly the damage to polymer coatings, materials and structures exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, temperature and humidity. The new device, called the NIST SPHERE (Simulated Photodegradation by High Energy Radiant Exposure) will help speed the introduction of new products into the market and reduce building repair costs.

To measure weathering, manufacturers currently either set their product in the sun and watch what happens – often over many years – or use an indoor weathering chamber. While laboratory testing is quicker, no one has been able to link field and laboratory exposure results, and neither approach is very repeatable or reproducible.
The NIST SPHERE, which can accommodate more than 500 samples, distributes UV radiation uniformly into as many as 32 specimen chambers with independently and precisely controlled temperature and humidity, ensuring repeatability and reproducibility of test results. The device accelerates weathering by generating controlled temperature, humidity and UV exposure environments up to 50 times faster than outdoor weathering. Materials exposed to the SPHERE’s UV light for one day receive the equivalent of 50 days of sunlight.

The NIST SPHERE is the centerpiece of NIST’s Service Life Prediction program to develop repeatable and reproducible methods for predicting the performance of construction materials. For further information, click here.

SBA offers riskmanagement tools

As part of a shared commitment to protect the financial health of small businesses, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., have teamed up to provide state-of-the-art risk management educational materials and online interactive tools and training for small business owners.

Materials developed by The Hartford’s loss control experts are available to small businesses via the SBA’s Web site and countrywide network of local offices.

“Each year, a large number of small businesses experience first hand the devastation that a disaster causes,” said SBA Administrator Hector V. Barreto. “It is a top priority for the SBA to provide America’s small business owners tools and information on business preparedness and protection.” Ramani Ayer, chairman and CEO of The Hartford said “This cosponsorship will give small business owners access to risk management resources that usually are available only to larger companies.”

Small business owners now have access to a library of educational materials developed by The Hartford’s loss control experts, available at selected SBA service locations nationwide. Offerings include a business insurance primer; audio tapes with practical tips for small business owners about how to maximize profits by minimizing everyday risks; and printed materials to help small businesses manage their risks quickly and effectively.

As part of the cosponsorship in the upcoming months, several risk management seminars for small business owners will be held at sites around the country. The topics will include: controlling overall business costs; managing workers’ compensation costs; understanding ergonomics; developing strategies for disaster preparedness, response and recovery; surviving business interruption; and implementing employment practices to limit liability exposures for small businesses.
In addition, recognizing that many entrepreneurs cannot take time away from their businesses to attend seminars in person, The Hartford and the SBA are providing a series of online courses to address key business insurance coverages for small businesses, including understanding business owners’ commercial auto and workers’ compensation insurance.

Small business owners can now access the first of these courses via the SBA’s Small Business Classroom Web site at www.sba.gov/classroom or The Hartford’s Small Business Insurance Center at www.sb.thehartford.com/sbaresources. They can also Ask the Expert Online and receive answers to questions regarding safety, health, property protection and other risk management and business insurance issues, and participate in periodic online forums on a variety of risk management topics.
For more information about all of the SBA’s programs for small businesses, call the SBA Answer Desk at 1-800 U ASK SBA, or visit the SBA’s extensive Web site at www.sba.gov.