In the aftermath of Hurricane Laura and the days following any natural disaster of its caliber, business owners are forced to reevaluate their disaster response policies. While many businesses throughout South Louisiana have been devastated, those that remain unscathed should consider the importance of having a disaster response and recovery procedure in place prior to an event.
No matter what your business might face, we put together five simple way for you to prepare your company for anything Mother Nature might toss your way.
Create an emergency operations plan
If a floor or hurricane were to strike your business tomorrow, are you clear on what would happen in the immediate days and hours to follow? Who would be in charge of directing operations? How do you plan to contact your staff or customers? Does anyone know where safety kits or important documentation is stored?
If you were unable to directly answer any of these questions, you are in need of creating an emergency operations plan for your business. A well-drafted plan will map out key elements like what leadership will look like and how the business will operate if its physical location has been compromised.
Creating & regularly updating and emergency operations plan should include input from your team. Review the plan with your leadership at least once a year to make sure everyone is comfortable, aware, and ready to implement if the situation arises.
Back up important data & documents regularly
No matter where your business is located, what season you are in, or what industry you operate in—it is vital to safely store important documents. Prior to an event, organize existing paperwork and make copies if needed. Some ideas of important paperwork you’ll need to preserve include insurance policies, HR files, and tax forms.
You should consider regularly backing up your documents and data to the cloud. Platforms like Dropbox & Google Drive make this easier than ever. Create digital backups of physical paperwork by scanning & uploading files into your cloud-based storage system. By doing this consistently, you will hold access to your company information no matter where you are.
Meet with your insurance advisor
We mentioned preserving insurance policies in the event of a disaster event by backing them up on a cloud-based storage system. It is also wise to establish a relationship with a local insurance advisor to review your company’s existing coverage & explore future coverage options. If your company has property assets that need to be protected, look into your current policy’s limits to verify that it is enough to cover full replacement.
Establish chain of communication with management, employees, clients or customers
An important less that we have all learned during the COVID-19 pandemics is the importance of establishing multiple streams of communications. Your emergency operations plan should outline how communication will be maintained during the disaster and its aftermath. You should consider including the following areas:
- Include extra or additional messaging through social media platforms, emails, or SMS messages to inform your audience of the impact of the natural disaster on your small business. Make sure you provide customers with updated contact information. Inform customers how any delays may impact the method in which you do business and be sure to alert them when you’re up and running again.
- Keep up with your team regularly during this time. If your organization is larger, establish a phone tree—a prearranged system for activating a group of people by telephone. It is important, if possible, to reach out and check in with each member personally to make sure they are safe. Discover and acknowledge any individual impact & learn how their needs can be met. Your employees will be grateful that you thought ahead to do this.
Reserve funding for emergencies or repairs
While you may be insured against product loss, property damage, and equipment repairs—the time it takes to process those claims and get your hands on the necessary cash could be detrimental.
An emergency fund allows you to continue operating and immediately begin making repairs and replacing any lost, damaged, or stolen assets. A popular saying “Time is Money” applies in business and having emergency funds on hand could be the one thing that ensures your company’s ability to remain in operation.
Connect with your community
When doing business locally, you gain the support of your community you are a part of. Small businesses that are impacted by natural disasters are impacted just as much as its residents. It may take businesses longer to rebuild and, for some, can be enough to close their doors completely.
However, if your business was one of the lucky ones or you are able to resume operations faster than others, now is the time to offer a helping hand to other businesses. Helping each other support our economy and together we can all work to bring our community back.