Two days after Hurricane Irma passed through Southwest Florida, we were still without power. Sick of eating beef jerky, crackers, and granola bars for every meal, my wife, puppy, and I were driving around Fort Myers, trying to see if we could get lucky and find a restaurant that was open. Miraculously, we found one. It was a Chinese restaurant in a strip mall near our hotel (we had been evacuated from our home).
We happily waited an hour and a half, and we gladly accepted the last two menu items they had available: sweet and sour pork and fried rice. We very were grateful to have hot food. This restaurant had generators for their refrigerator, and they were cooking on a gas stove. Therefore, they were able to make and sell every bit of food that they had left. They planned ahead. Not only did they weather the storm without losing any food supplies, they were able to serve customers at a time when most other businesses couldn’t. Which I'm sure turned a nice profit, as well as creating very happy customers. The moral of this story…be prepared and have a plan.
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2018 Hurricane Season Forecast
The 2018 Hurricane season is right around the corner, and according to Accweather, forecasters are predicting a near normal to slightly above normal year with between 12-15 tropical storms. Furthermore, of those storms 6-8 are predicted to become hurricanes, and 3-5 of those hurricanes will become major hurricanes. What does that mean for business owners in Florida? You should have a hurricane plan and prepare for the worst-case scenario. After all, forty percent of small businesses that close due to hurricane damage do not reopen. So, in order to prevent your business from being another statistic, it is critical to prepare now.
Hurricane Preparation and Planning
According to the National Hurricane Survival Initiative, here are some steps you can take to make sure that your business is prepared for hurricane season.
Step 1: Protect Property & Assets
· Invest in and install shutters or plywood, in order to protect windows and doors from wind borne-debris. You can also have impact glass installed if you own the building that your business is in. If not, talk to your landlord about what you can do.
· Have the roof of your building evaluated to ensure it can withstand a storm.
· Remove any branches or trees adjacent to your building that could potentially fall and damage it.
· Sandbag any area that is subject to flooding, like a first floor doorway.
· Clean drains, gutters and downspouts.
· Anchor and brace any large furniture (bookcases, shelves, filing cabinets) to wall studs.
· Any loose objects normally outside, bring them inside. If the objects are too large to be brought inside, secure them outside.
· Relocate any valuable or fragile possessions, including storing company vehicles inside a garage or on higher ground.
· Secure all utilities including water heaters, gas tanks, and heaters and if necessary, raise them to higher locations to avoid water damage.
· Secure electronics, such as computers and other office equipment.
· Remove any outdoor signs if possible.
· Turn off all the utilities prior to a hurricane making landfall if possible.
Step 2: Protect Important Documents and Information
· Designate important contacts to save that are crucial to business operations, such as employees, banks, lawyers, accountants, suppliers, etc.
· Make electronic copies and back-up documents that are not easily reproduced, such as insurance documents, legal contracts, tax returns, and accounting statements, to avoid water damage.
· Seal these documents in waterproof containers onsite.
· Save all your designated contacts and documents in an alternate, accessible off-site location, on an external hard drive, or in the cloud.
· Video all of your assets, fixtures, furnishings, equipment, and building contents for insurance purposes. Make sure you have an accurate list of all assets on your balance sheet.
Step 3: Keep A Preparedness Checklist
The below items should be gathered in one location at your place of business, should a storm hit while you are on premises. This will help protect the safety of your employees, should disaster strike during regular working hours and without ample notice. This is also a helpful list for home preparation as well.
· Battery operated radio
· Non-perishable three day food supply
· Three day supply of water (one gallon of water per person, per day)
· Coolers and containers for water and washing
· Blankets, pillows, cots, and chairs
· First Aid Kit and first aid manual
· Flashlights, batteries, light-sticks
· Tool kit (basic tools, gloves, etc.)
· Camera for documenting damage
· Whistle/signal flare to signal for help
· Tarps, plastic bags, duct tape
· Cleaning supplies, including mops, towels and garbage cans
· Smoke alarms and fire extinguishers
· Gas for vehicles, generators and other equipment
· Cash, ATM cards, credit cards proper identification
· Emergency contact information such as the nearest hospital and police, along with:
· Small Business Administration (SBA): 1-800-359-2227
· FEMA Tele-registration hot-line: 1-800-462-9029
· Insurance company and agent’s contact information
Step 4: Have a Recovery/Re-Opening Plan
One of the best defenses against the devastation of a hurricane is preparation. Preparation helps to minimize damage, thereby speeding up the recovery time. By providing detailed plans of action, disaster plans become one of the key preparation tools. Your hurricane response plan should specify what actions are necessary before during and after a disaster, who is responsible for initiating each action, and what additional resources are needed. After a hurricane, a business will rely heavily on the recovery section of its plan.
Because of the direct link between local business recovery and the community, a speedy recovery by businesses after a hurricane is vital. Businesses create and sustain the economic vitality of a community, by providing employment goods and services. One of the key elements to assuring a speedy and successful recovery is a business recovery plan.
This plan outlines all of the steps a business must take to return to normal operation. All plans, regardless of the size of the business or number of employees, should be tested to insure that all contingencies have been considered. Also, you must be aware of the impact of the disaster on your employees. Make sure you allow time for employees to respond to the needs of their families and homes. To the extent possible, pre-determine leave policies to be activated for the recovery period.
Business Recovery Plan
· Contacting insurance company.
· Taking photographs of or videoing the damage.
· Accounting for all damage related costs.
· Keeping detailed records, establishing record codes for purchases and repair work, keeping all receipts.
· Conducting salvage operations, separating damaged from undamaged property.
· Taking an inventory of damaged property. Damaged property and goods should be kept on hand until the insurance adjuster assesses the damage.
· Assessing the value of damaged property and the impact of business interruption.
· Protecting undamaged property by making temporary repairs.
· Contacting the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs to get license insurance and consumer complaint information on contractors to assist in building repairs.
· If possible removing water and debris.
· Initiating the employee alert plan.
· Conducting an employee briefing.
· Assessing remaining hazards and maintaining property security.
· Make a list of what still needs to be done in order to re-open and get business going again.
For more information about your business’ survival guide, download FEMA’s Business Toolkit or FEMA’s “Every Business Should Have a Plan” booklet for tips and further examples of steps you can take to prepare your business.