Natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and fires are beyond our control and can strike anytime. The good news is we can plan ahead of time, prepare to respond, and recover from them. In fact, what you do early on before a disaster strikes is more important than what you do after it hits to protect your family and home. For business owners, especially for small companies, it’s as essential as making sure to rebuild their businesses after the devastation. To get you started, click here for a step by step guide on how to write a business plan.
To provide continuity and safeguard your business and employees, here are some tips on what you should do before, during, and following a natural disaster:
1. Create an Emergency Plan
If a force of nature were to strike your small business, what could happen in the upcoming days? First of all, you need to perceive possible scenarios that could occur during and after the disaster. Understanding potential risks allows you to develop an effective emergency response plan, as well as steps you need to take to protect your company, employees, data, and everyone connected to your business. The most important thing you should do is to ensure that everyone is aware of the natural disaster and that the emergency plan is communicated as quickly as possible. For this, you can use a mass text message broadcast to send emergency alerts and notifications to your entire contact list. Regardless of how big or small your contact list is, this vital information will be sent out and delivered immediately.
Assign a team leader to handle the delegation of responsibilities to each member after the devastation if you believe you will be too busy to do it yourself. Moreover, the following should be a part of your safety actions during the disaster:
- Evacuation. Check your fire alarm system if it’s working well. If your building doesn’t have one, you can use anything possible to warn everyone to evacuate, like air horns. Ensure that all employees know where the exits are.
- Sheltering. There should be a designated room as a shelter for everyone if necessary, like when there’s a tornado warning. Make sure that this area is the strongest part of the building.
- Shelter-in-Place. Like chemical hazards or tornadoes, some crises require you to find a safe place indoors until there is an order from the authorities for evacuation.
Before the disaster, here are things your team could do:
- Always keep a fully-stocked emergency or first aid kit in your workplace and ensure that everyone knows where to find it.
- Define the best methods of communication among your team – from emails to text messages, calling, and other messaging apps convenient for everybody in your team.
2. Back-up Important Data
In the beginning, you should already have backed up your most critical data and stored them safely, such as your business license, legal documents, major contracts, financial statements, tax returns, and other business and customer files. Make sure that they are securely accessible from the devices you’re using after the disaster.
For instance, you can create backups of electronic files by scanning, uploading, and syncing them into a cloud-based storage system.
3. Contact Your Insurance Company
It’s always best to meet with your insurance company to review your existing coverage if you know a disaster is coming. Look into your current policy’s limits making sure it’s sufficient to cover any possible damage to your business. If it’s not, you may want to consider investing in additional coverage outside your general policies.
After making sure that your employees are safe and accounted for following the disaster, contact your insurance company to file a claim.
4. Know Who to Call
Aside from your insurance agent, you can also call other professionals before, during, or after a natural disaster. Did you know that FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) has resources as well?
Most importantly, know restoration companies near you to help you clean up the mess and restore whatever is left. These companies usually have experts with specialized equipment to repair and restore all the contents inside your workplace, including the structure. For professional restoration services, check out Puroclean for more info.
5. Keep the Communication with Your Team
It may be tempting to get back to business immediately after the disaster, but you need to make sure first that your employees are ready to get back to work. Besides, they may not focus if they are still traumatized from the catastrophe, so they should be prioritized more than your business. Reach out to them and clearly state what you expect of them in the coming days or weeks, such as the new working hours, if work from home is possible, the road conditions, or your building’s current situation.
6. Speak to Your Customers
Outlining the methods of communication with your customers after a disaster should be a part of your emergency response plan. When you know that there’s a disaster coming, update their contact details, like mobile numbers, landline numbers, and other messaging app accounts. After asking how they are and how you can help if they’re directly affected by the crisis, inform them of your business plans, including:
- Your reopening dates
- If you have relocated your business
- When will you resume taking new orders
- If deliveries are possible anytime soon
Keep in mind that the earlier you inform them of your reopening, the higher the chance they buy from you again.
7. Call Your Distributors and Suppliers
Make it a priority to talk to your suppliers or distributors, especially if the disaster badly impacted your business. If you can’t resume business with them right away, make sure to inform them. Otherwise, ask them if they can continue supplying what you need because you may need to look for alternative suppliers or distributors if they can’t.
8. Review Your Business Strategy
After the disaster, you may want to assess your business operations and figure out how you can increase sales or if you need to shift to other marketing strategies. Explore every possible channel to continue marketing your brand and recover from potential sales drop due to the effects of the calamity.
In most cases, people are always finding ways to help others who have been affected by the disaster, but they are not in the location. Meaning, they want to extend donations, and the internet is the best way to do this without physically visiting the affected areas. Be sure that you are available online or on the telephone and your current products are updated so that you can be an instrument for this good cause. At the same time, you continue making profits when people buy your products.