All of America has watched in horror as Houston and surrounding areas have endured the force of Hurricane Harvey. The images have been terrifying and hard to even comprehend. Yet, as always, it has been inspiring to see the goodness of mankind prevail in the face of adversity.
There is a tendency for all of us to believe that a large-scale disaster won’t happen where we live. When we watch T.V. and see natural disasters happening in places all around the world, it seems far removed from our daily lives. Yet, when catastrophes such as Harvey happen, it is important that as individuals, community members, and business leaders, we take the time to learn from these events and prepare ourselves for the possibility of a disaster in our own backyard.
Is your business prepared if a disaster happens in your community? Here are just a few areas for you to focus on to ensure that your business will be protected.
- Insurance - Now is the time to call your insurance agent and review your policies. Confirm that the limits of insurance are enough to cover your business properly. If your business has grown or you have new equipment, it is important to update your policies. Also, Business Interruption coverage is recommended to protect your financial loss if you must close your business for a length of time.
- Safety – Hopefully, there would be early warnings if a disaster was about to strike, but that is not always the case. Therefore, it is important to prepare for the worst-case scenario. Employee safety is paramount. Evacuation routes should be planned and communicated to staff. Have a first aid kit at each location. Prepare a survival kit with items such as flashlights, batteries, water, and a weather radio. Periodically, check the building’s alarms, fire extinguishers, and generator if you have one, so that you are confident that they will work when you need them the most.
- Information Technology – Discuss with your IT department or outsourced IT provider how your network security will be handled in case of a disaster. If you use a cloud solution or have offsite storage, make sure that your network service provider has redundancy through a disaster recovery center. If your service is onsite, make sure that critical files are backed up regularly and stored at offsite locations.
- Business Continuity Plan – Prepare a plan to keep your business running if possible. Evaluate different scenarios and plan accordingly. Are you able to relocate temporarily? Will employees be able to work remotely? What happens if your suppliers shut down?
- Communication Strategy – During a time of crisis, communication is vital. Key employees need to be assigned as spokespersons for communication with media, insurance carriers, and important business relations if necessary. Put an effective system into place to contact clients and vendors about business operations and create a phone tree or email blast to keep in touch with employees. Make sure all staff members know their role in the disaster preparedness strategy.
Hurricane Harvey has wreaked havoc on an entire region. Homes have been destroyed, people have been killed, and families have been displaced. Businesses have also been ravaged and many of those businesses will be unable to resume operations any time soon, if ever at all. According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, 40% of small businesses never reopen following severe weather events. Let Hurricane Harvey be a wakeup call for us all. Prepare for any future catastrophe.