If you live in the Southeast like me, you are well aware of the astonishing amount of rain that can suddenly come crashing down from above during these summer months. Florida has had a relatively calm last decade; yet even in 2016, the hurricane damages to Florida approached $1.6B, and this was even without taking into account the large number of crops and other farming areas destroyed. Hurricanes are the state's most expensive disasters, but despite their massive size and power, steps can be taken to prevent and avoid the loss of property, and most importantly, life.
The first step may come as obvious to anyone who follows Common Sense Business Solutions. One thing I always hammer down my clients and followers is the necessity of making a PLAN for their business. But this practice is useful in capacities far outside just business usage! Making a solid disaster preparedness plan allows you to follow a set of put-in-place steps when disaster strikes, rather than chancing it and making it up as you go along. Part of your plan must include supplies, such as water, food, lights, batteries, radios, first aid, and contact information for shelters. Your plan must also include agreed upon action steps for you and your family to take. What if there is a situation in which you are separated from the others? What is the agreed upon meeting location? These things should be discussed as well as the best routes to make it to shelters and other locations of higher ground.
It is very important that you listen to the advice and announcements of FEMA. If given the order to leave, you must do so immediately! There is nothing more valuable than your life. Many people, out of stubbornness, have refused to leave and end up getting trapped or isolated. Always obey the evacuation orders and follow the designated routes.
Here is some detailed planning as it pertains to different categories of Hurricanes:
Category 1/2: Winds are sustained between 70-100 miles per hour. Operating your business from a portable location, such as a job trailer, could result in severe damage. If you operate from this type of building you should begin making preparations several days in advance including relocation of computers and other electronic equipment (make sure you backup all files in advance). You should also make sure that critical documents such as loan papers, tax returns, insurance policies, contracts, etc. are moved to a secure and dry location.
Category 3/4: Sustained winds of 111-155 miles per hour... Most businesses will close for several days to several weeks. Make sure that employees know how to reach you and make them responsible for checking in - don't make it your responsibility to keep in touch with your employees. You will have a multitude of responsibilities during this time and you do not have time to babysit. If this type of storm threatens your area and your facility is not located in an evacuation zone, you may want to consider whether you want to offer the facility as a storm shelter for your employees. If you do, make sure that you have adequate supplies - food, water, a portable radio, flashlights and lanterns, batteries, blankets, first aid kit, possibly a gas generator. Remember that you probably will not have electricity or running water. Also, when the electricity is out most gas stations cannot function because their pumps will not work without electricity.
Category 5: A catastrophic storm with winds of 155+ miles per hour. This is a good time to ponder what types of financial reserves your business would require to survive a catastrophic weather event and to have savings goals that anticipate that at some point during the life of the business it may be necessary to cope with a major interruption of the business operations. Also consider whether your business can be operated from another location until the local situation improves.
Being prepared prior to a disaster is always better than hastily making a plan during it. Ensure your business location or house is up to code. Regular maintenance of your properties will help with water flow and other issues; routinely clean gutters and drains. Always document your properties for later insurance and restoration needs. For some business models and practices, information may be the core of the business. The loss of data can be catastrophic. If you are not already backed up by an external database or some cloud server, it is a wise idea to do so, even beyond the disaster preparedness calling.
If you have employees, take responsibility and your leadership role seriously. Coach them and help them build their own plans and emergency systems up for your family. Your employees are your most valuable asset, treat them like such. There are many resources online available that can provide you more tips and specifics, but hopefully I got you thinking about the importance of disaster preparedness. Be safe this season, be wise, and PLAN!
If your business should suffer damages in a natural disaster, you may qualify for an SBA loan or other disaster relief (www.sba.gov/disaster). You can also prepare a step-by-step business disaster plan by visiting www.floridadisaster.org/business.
Cynthia Alloway is the president of Common Sense Business Solutions, Inc., a leading business coaching firm that assists small and medium sized business owners in solving business problems, growing their companies, and transitioning their legacy to the next generation. Cynthia is a QuickBooks Pro Advisor and has a wealth of experience in serving clients in the Southeast. Learn more at http://www.commonsensebizsolutions.com/president-bio/.