Monday, 22 July 2019
Consider this: Nearly half of businesses affected by natural disasters end up permanently closing, according to the Federal Emergency Management Administration.
If a natural disaster strikes your community, would your business be one of those that doesn't recover?
While you can't prevent or avoid natural catastrophes such as hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, or floods, you can take action to mitigate damage to your business.
You probably won't have much warning, so the best time to make a plan is well before you need one.
Discuss business continuity with staff
Ask these questions:
A crisis communications plan can be an invaluable resource if you have to speak with the media, or if you need to broadcast critical information. Take the time to review and update your plan regularly as your business and technology changes.
Take steps that will allow you to access all your critical documents remotely. Ideally, this should be done way in advance so when an event happens, you can focus on employee safety and business.
Keep copies of all financial information such as W2s, tax returns, contracts, and other documents in the cloud via emailing yourself or using a cloud storage site. If you back up files on hard drives, make sure to store a copy far enough away from the workplace or your home so it won't be destroyed in the same event. National Cyber Awareness System has some other tips for preparing your computers and protecting data.
You'll also want to document your valuables and equipment so it's easier to replace them in the event they're lost, damaged, or stolen in a disaster. You can take photos or videos. The IRS has a workbook to help you organize your business assets on paper.
Review your insurance to make sure you have the right kind to help you rebuild after a disaster or replace lost income. Your insurance agent or company can help you make sure your coverage is adequate and up to date.
Do you need to add hurricane windows, exterior storm shutters, or earthquake retrofitting?
What would happen if your main power source went down? What about water and refrigeration? Would it be helpful to invest in a generator?
Consider what would be helpful in an emergency kit if you and your staff had to shelter in place, such as battery-powered radios, solar phone chargers, food, water, flashlights, medical supplies, tarps, and batteries.
Finally, make it a habit to keep all vehicle gas tanks full. You never know when you'll need them to help evacuate employees or help others.
As a disaster unfolds, the priority is obviously on safety. Things can be replaced, but people cannot. It's not uncommon for people to panic, freeze, or act illogically in a disaster.
To help you and your team make smart choices, monitor radios and TV for evacuation orders or shelter-in-place directions. If you're in immediate danger, try to stay calm and get yourself and others to safety as quickly as possible.
Keep in mind safety procedures can vary depending on the disaster. For example, if you're in a tornado, get to a low, windowless, interior room. In a flood, don't walk or drive through waters. Ready.gov has a guide to specific kinds of disasters. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also has a comprehensive list of resources and checklists to help you get ready and to recover after.
Once the immediate threat of danger has passed, make sure all personnel are safe and accounted for.
If there is mold, toxins, or chemicals, or if the structure is unsafe due to structural, plumbing, or electrical issues, seek professional assistance. The priority should always be to keep employees safe. FEMA has a helpful checklist with tips such as being careful when opening cabinets, checking for contaminated food, and avoiding perilous live wires and devices.
Determine what you need in terms of staffing and equipment to keep the business going. Check to see if vendors are able to provide services and supplies, or if contingency plans are needed.
Taking numerous photos and videos before the cleanup begins can make it easier to file insurance claims.
When you've reached a point of general stability, start looking for resources to help you get through what will likely be a difficult period for your business. For example, low interest SBA disaster loans can be used by businesses of all sizes to repair or replace real estate, personal property, machinery, equipment, inventory, and business assets damaged or destroyed in a declared disaster region.
If your employees will be out of work, help connect them with unemployment resources. The SBA also has a comprehensive list, organized by state and type, of other agencies that can provide assistance after a disaster.
Finally, while it's still fresh in your mind, get together with your team and document what went well during the crisis, and what could have been better. This information can guide you as you re-evaluate and retool your disaster preparedness plan. Hopefully there won't be a next time, but if there is, you'll be ready.
The content provided is for informational purposes only. Neither BBVA USA, nor any of its affiliates, is providing legal, tax, or investment advice. You should consult your legal, tax, or financial advisor about your personal situation. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BBVA USA or any of its affiliates.
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