If you are the owner of a business, prepare for a hurricane well beforehand. Gather your equipment and inventory and move them to a more protected location. Lock up your office and have copies of vital office records stored in a safe location outside your office’s premises. Evaluate your insurance coverage and prepare for future documentation by taking stock of your equipment and other important belongings. Take pictures of these items and gather serial numbers, policy numbers and contact numbers.
Be prepared to work with minimal means. Have a contingency plan where you can work with minimal cash and no access to power and water for two weeks. If you can afford it, purchase a back up generator and have emergency kits and supplies in the office. Prepare a temporary office in another location in case your office is completely destroyed by the hurricane. Make sure that this provisional office is not very far from your original office. It should also be accessible by phone and must have computer and internet access.
Know the Vulnerability of your Business. Geographical information and infrastructure knowledge of your location will be of great benefit.
- Know the elevation of your business above sea level. The elevation is the major factor in determining your vulnerability to storm surge (tidal flooding) or flooding by area streams and waterways. Information on the elevation can be obtained from property site plans, city building officials, and city or county floodplain administrators. Your local emergency management office has hurricane planning materials which outline areas which are likely to be affected by storm surge in various categories of hurricanes. The National Weather Service can supply information on flood stages for area waterways. If your business is vulnerable to flooding, you should develop plans to evacuate it during a hurricane.
- Know the condition of your building. If your business is located in an evacuation zone, hire an engineering firm to inspect the building and foundation to determine if the structure could withstand the forces of hurricane winds and waves. If the building and its foundation are not structurally able to withstand severe wind and water, then you should plan to evacuate it completely during a hurricane – it is probably not safe for any person to remain in the facility.
Know your Evacuation Routes
- Depending on the severity of a hurricane and its projected path, local officials may recommend the evacuation of people in evacuation zones only or for people in both evacuation and contingency zones. If your business is located in an evacuation or contingency zone, it may have to be evacuated.
- Obtain information on the specific evacuation routes that should be used from your local emergency management office. Get an estimate of travel times on those routes and potential problem areas (traffic bottlenecks, low areas that might flood, etc.). Your local emergency management office can also obtain copies of public information brochures on the hurricane threat prepared by federal and state emergency management officials.
Business is now 100% connected with technology. Emails, digital faxes, teleconferencing are the norm. Use the latest technology to do work remotely, away from severely affected areas. Having access to your office during an emergency without having to be there is ideal. Using low cost software programs such as LogMeIn to access your office workstations remotely can increase productivity and downtime during a disaster, plus you can remotely manage your technology by shutting it down remotely to prevent further damage from power fluctuations or spikes caused by lightning, down lines, etc.
Organization is the key to keeping your business afloat during times like this. Make sure you have prepared well by having a file of phone numbers of key personnel and clients. Also, collect your personnel’s computer passwords and other important codes so you can access any file if the need arises. Do not forget to have a plan of how to contact your employees if the hurricane has the potential to be life-threatening. Have their numbers at hand and alert them immediately not to go to the office if this situation arises. If you have the luxury of being informed by news and weather agencies about the hurricane in advance, also talk to your clients and suppliers and inform them of how you intend to carry on with the business. If some suppliers cannot promise you that they will be accessible, also have a number of alternative suppliers which you can contact. Always take note of each expenditure file including sales invoices and tax returns
When your business is badly affected by a hurricane, search for available loan plans which you can avail. There are agencies designed to help businesses recover crises like this by offering unemployment compensation and counseling. Because of the severity of hurricane disasters, loans are hastily processed so business owners can get back on their feet as soon as possible. A good example of a loan which a business owner can explore and avail is the disaster loan offered by the US Small Business Administration. Business owners can get loans to repair their offices and restore inventory after going through a calamity. Federal loans offer as high as $1.5 million for as low as four percent interest in terms of up to thirty years. To find out more about federal loans, contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
It will take time for you, for your business and for your employees to recover. Make sure you have informed your employees on your stand regarding the handling of disasters like hurricanes. Make sure you are always in touch with your employees and keep them posted regarding when they should be able to go back to work and where. Be compassionate and do not pressure them to go back before they have their families and homes secured. The hurricane will be expensive and business owners must always have spare cash to not only rebuild the business, but also take care of your employees’ basic needs so the employers can be of help in whichever way they can be. This will build a strong relationship and will give your employees more motivation to work for you.
Some additional preparation tips for Hurricane Sandy 2012 and other hurricanes / severe storms