The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports that 40 to 60 percent of small businesses never recover and re-open their doors after a disaster. It is in the best interest of your business to maintain both adequate insurance coverage and a disaster recovery plan so you’re prepared to bounce back when Mother Nature comes calling.
In 2019, there were 14 major weather climate disasters that totaled community losses exceeding $1 billion in the United States. This included flooding, tornado outbreaks, hail storms, droughts, wildfires, and tropical storms. If you find yourself in need of rebuilding after a similar event, it’s important to:
Stay on a short timeline. If you’re a small business, you’ve got to communicate your closure to customers, employees, and stakeholders, then find a way to re-open within five days if you want to preserve the chance you will still be in business in a year. Penning a plan for a course of action for if your business becomes nonoperational due to disaster is key. This includes a plan to protect assets and access important documents such as insurance policies, hardware inventory including serial numbers, business contracts, and employee records.
Document all damage. Your disaster response plan should indicate which individual within the company is responsible for photographing, videotaping, and documenting physical damage to property to assist with an insurance claim.
Contact your insurance representative immediately. A delay in communication can mean a delay in financial assistance, and a timely reopening is crucial to protecting the odds of your business making it long-term.
Take advantage of offerings from FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA). The SBA Office of Disaster Assistance offers low-interest loans for repairing or replacing real estate, inventory, machinery and equipment, and business assets that have been damaged or destroyed in an event that has been declared a disaster.
Check your air quality. Mold can grow anywhere oxygen and moisture are present. If your building hasn’t had the humidity under control for a few days, you haven’t had maintenance services, appliances haven’t been properly vented, or your roof has been leaking, you’ll want to make sure your work environment is safe for employees to return.
If necessary, move to an alternate location with access to duplicate data. It’s more important that you continue operations than it is you wait to re-open operations at your current location. The more contact you can maintain with your customer base and employees, the better. Operating on a virtual server (also known as cloud hosting) or having access to a back-up of all company data off site can make this possible when necessary. This will allow your company data to be accessible from anywhere, rather than only at your original location.
Communicate your priorities to your employees. First and foremost, take care of your people. You want your employees to hear that their safety is of utmost importance, whereas computers and carpet can be replaced. Keep in mind the financial strain a lapse in pay can cause an individual, and work to create a team mentality that despite the current struggle, the goal is to continue operations–or re-open as quickly as possible–for long-term success. The state may provide temporary assistance for employees who need support during the transition.