How to Prepare Your Business for a Disaster
In the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma and a slew of dangerous wildfires out West, American small business owners need to make sure they are well prepared for the next disaster. It may be impossible to avoid the destruction brought on by these natural events, but if you are proactive, you may be able to keep the worst of it at bay. Here are some tips to help you start preparing now!
Move Everything to the Cloud
If you haven’t set up a paperless system for your office yet, now is the time to make that move. While the initial transfer of paper files to the cloud is time-consuming, once it is done you will feel so much better about the state of your company. No matter what happens, where you are, or where you have to go, all of your information from client records to insurance documents will be safely encrypted in the cloud for you to access with a simple internet connection. There will be no worrying about lost files or paperwork, and you can even continue operating from wherever you end up relocating.
Make Sure Employees Have Equipment
Once you have a cloud drive, make sure all of your employees have access to it, and a reliable, portable computer to do so. If you want to be able to keep making money even while things need to be cleaned up or replaced, employees will need to be able to work remotely so you don’t lose any time. Being able to continue operating is key, and employees will need laptops and gear to log in and do their jobs, even if they’re on the other side of the country.
Rent a Secure Storage Space
You should always have a safe place you can keep extra inventory or equipment for your company, but it is extremely important to have enough space to fit the maximum amount of your businesses things if there should be a hurricane or flood that could damage your brick and mortar location. If you operate a store or office in a low-lying, flood prone area, look for a secure storage unit that is at a higher elevation. In the case of flooding and storm surge, being able to move all of your inventory to a safe, dry location could mean the difference between being able to continue selling and shipping items right after the storm, and spending weeks or months fighting with the insurance company with all operations paused.
Amp Up Your Security & Insurance
One of the best ways to protect your investment is to make certain your security system is top-of-the-line, and you have all of the necessary insurance you could need.
For security systems, make sure you have one that can be accessed remotely from your phone or laptop so that you can check the status throughout the storm. Having cameras of all of the ingress and egress routes is also important, along with the interior, especially if you have a retail location where merchandise is held. If your location is in a city, you may also want to have security shutters or bars on your windows to prevent theft during a post-disaster supplies shortage.
As for your insurance, you should always be carrying general and professional liability insurance, as well as workman’s comp if you have employees. Outside of that, we greatly recommend that you have insurance to cover your equipment, furniture, and inventory kept inside your locations and storage facilities, as well as policies that would handle transferring ownership of, and organizing funding for, the business if an owner or major shareholder is permanently incapacitated or killed. It is very scary, but you need to be fully prepared for everything in these situations before they happen!
Turn Off Water Lines & Electric Breakers
If you are evacuating (or even if you aren’t), be sure to turn off the main water line to your location to prevent indoor flooding from broken or burst pipes, and also most of your electric breakers. Shut off all of the breakers except for your HVAC system in warm or humid climates, and also leave on the switch for your alarm system. If the power goes out, you will get an alert from your alarm company that the system is offline, so even if you are away, you will know whether it is working or not.
If you really want to be prepared, have a generator installed to keep your power on even if the grid is down. There are many sizes at all different price points, so we recommend talking to a professional about what size would be right for your location. Even if you have a full generator that can run for days, only leave on the HVAC and alarm breakers to conserve your usage so that it can run for a longer period of time.
If you live in an area like Florida, the Carolinas, or south Texas where hurricanes and storms are just part of life, you should seriously consider having high-grade, electric storm shutters installed at your location. These can withstand serious wind and impact, preventing blown out doors and windows, and even keeping out some flooding. They can be the difference between coming back to no damage, and everything is destroyed.
If you live in these areas and don’t have hurricane shutters, or live anywhere else, boarding up your windows and doors with plywood, or aluminum or plexiglass shutters, is better than nothing at all. It will prevent windows from blowing out and causing the roof to go, or letting water inside. If you have a garage, it should also be reinforced before you go.
Listen to Emergency Personnel
Finally, you need to listen to emergency personnel. These first responders are trained professionals who have seen these events before and know what they will be dealing with. If they tell you to evacuate and you have the means, you need to do your prep and go! Staying around may sound brave, but if you get into a situation where you need their services because you didn’t listen and stayed, you are putting their lives at risk for your poor decisions. Everyone needs to heed warnings and be smart. Listen to officials and do everything you can to be cooperative and proactive- it will go a long way in helping them do their jobs efficiently and safely.
Essentially, when a storm is coming, you will only have a limited amount of time to make your decisions. So, it is best to have everything prepared ahead of time. Making it through a natural disaster is stressful and exhausting, so the more prepared you and your business can be, the easier it will be to continue operations and make a quick rebound.
Abby Yetter is the CEO and Chief Consultant of Bright Ideas Small Business Solutions, LLC. She is a driven, enthusiastic businesswoman, with a talent for organizing the chaotic, and branding the unfamed. Abby strives to use her creativity, and experience, to solve the many problems of small businesses. With a background based in customer service management, social media, technological organization, sales, marketing, and customer experience specialties, she enjoys taking everyday complications, and finding the newest, most productive ways to execute the tasks.All stories by: Abby Yetter