How to Best Prepare Your Business for a Natural Disaster: 6 Crucial Tips

The recent storms to hit the United States have been all over the media the last few weeks. Hurricane Harvey dumped enough water on southern Texas in a week to supply New York City with drinking water for sixty-nine years. That is a massive amount of water to fall in less than a week. And then there’s Hurricane Irma:

Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma – photo credit: Joan Nova / Flickr

If you are like many small business owners, you are more than likely wondering how to best prepare your business for a natural disaster like Hurricane Harvey or Irma. Now is a great time to review the plans your business has in place for when a natural disaster occurs in your area.

Here are 3 tips for before a disaster strikes

1. Create a Disaster Kit

Before a disaster hits, is the best time to come up with a plan to deal with a natural disaster. Safety of your staff should always be at the top of the priority list and next should be the sensitive information you have about your employees and customers. Having a backup server at a second location can help you store this information and some businesses can help you store this in the cloud.

2. Develop a communication plan and practice it

You need to have a communication plan in place for how you plan to communicate with your employees during times of natural disaster. Simply expecting to text, call or email everyone on your staff may not be the best plan for communicating with your staff.

Whatever plan you do come up with, it is a good idea to practice the plan periodically. The practice runs should be secret so you can ensure all of your employees get the message when disaster does strike. Facilitating this practice run can help create loyalty among your staff that is invaluable to your business. If they know you care about their well-being and are preparing to keep them safe they will trust you more than another business who may be looking for qualified talent.

3. Create a Business Continuity Plan

If you are a national or international company than you know that business never stops. When a disaster occurs in one region of the country, the other parts of the country or the globe keep chugging along. Your customers will still expect products to be delivered on time and services to be performed at the time they were scheduled. There are many ways to address these issues, but when a category three hurricane is two days away, is not the time to come up with this plan.

Serious business meeting

3 tips for dealing with a natural disaster that is happening

1. Call your insurance agent

Being able to communicate with your insurance agent can drastically improve the claims process. The time to establish a relationship with your insurance agent is not two days before a hurricane is about to hit or the morning before a tornado is forecasted to hit your town. Establishing a relationship with them throughout the year will go a long way towards keeping both your carrier and your agent on your side when disaster strikes.

Making sure you have more than the basic general liability insurance policy in place for your business. When disaster does strike, it is a good idea to have a little patience with your insurance companies during this time. You are not the only business owner trying to get through to them. Also, do not be alarmed if your agent tells you to contact your carrier. The carrier is the business that will process a claim, not your agent. It is still a good idea to keep your agent in the loop throughout the process. If the carrier is not living up to their responsibilities, your agent can negotiate with them on your behalf.

2. Keep your vital docs safe

Vital documents can be extremely important when dealing with a disaster. In today’s digital world, many of these documents are stored electronically. It is very important to keep your vital documents safe and available. These documents should include the contact names, phone numbers and email addresses of those you will need to communicate with. This may include employees, vendors, customers and government agencies.

You should make sure more than one person knows where to access this information in the event of an emergency. This can expedite the claim process in the event that you need to file a claim. Protecting vital business records is also crucial.

3. Communicate with your employees

If you prepared properly before the disaster struck, communicating with your employees should not be extremely hard. Like at many times in life, patience is a virtue. Your employees more than likely have a lot of things going on in their lives while dealing with a natural disaster. Like you, their family takes priority over their work life. If your employees do not respond or respond very briefly it is wise to have a bit of understanding for their situation.

Communication is key though, because your staff may be able to rally together in order to help one or a few employees who may be hurt worse than others. This is an opportunity for you as a business owner to do the right thing and show your staff you truly care.

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