Having spent my life at the Jersey Shore and nearly half of my life consulting and working with businesses located on or near the shore, I have come to learn that planning, preparation and action is a key to weathering the “storms” we experience.
Whether it has been multiple decades worth of hurricanes and tidal flooding or a one-off like the derecho that we experienced a few years ago, businesses, like residents, have been affected by storms of all magnitudes. These storms affect many people and entities in so many ways. During and after storms, some people and businesses are affected physically, some mentally and some both.
I have found throughout the years that planning, preparation and action are three areas of importance when it comes to dealing with what has been occurring in our region as it relates to storms and weather emergencies. How can a business prepare for a weather emergency? Here are a few thoughts and suggestions:
• Develop a plan: A disaster-preparedness plan should include elements and detailed information on how you will manage your business in the event of a weather disaster. The written document (stored offsite as well as onsite) should include information on who is responsible for doing what; important items you need to run your business remotely; and a list of supplies, equipment and software to make sure you can both operate your business and access your data. This is of course assuming it is possible to still do so in the event of a storm or weather emergency. It should go without saying that the safety of you, your employees and customers, should be your top priority. The element of safety should be a major part of your disaster preparedness planning. Erring on the side of caution is always a best practice when talking about and planning for something as unpredictable and powerful as weather emergencies.
• Understand your coverage: When it comes to all forms of insurance, the time to discuss your coverage and policies with your agent is before the storm or weather emergency. In addition to things like property and casualty insurance, you may want to talk to your broker about business interruption insurance and the reasons to add this coverage to your business owner’s policy.
• Be prepared and watch the weather: A big mistake many people make is they are caught off guard by weather emergencies. While it seems like common sense, many people are so focused on the business at hand that they are not paying attention to potential weather-related threats. The sooner you know about a storm, the sooner you and your team can prepare for the worst situation and prepare as much as possible. Having additional time to prepare for a weather emergency could help your business weather the storm with less impact. Along with your normal sources of weather information, using a weather radio is a good way to get the latest information pre-storm.
• Take action to return to business normalcy as soon as possible: Do what you can and seek the assistance offered and available to help get your business operating after the storm. Having worked alongside disaster-relief representatives from the Small Business Administration for a good portion of my work in business consulting taught me something worth sharing. While proper planning helps to protect employees and lessen the financial impact to businesses, the major help needed is assistance to re-open the business as soon as possible. This helps to support the economic recovery of the community that surrounds the business. Speaking of the Small Business Administration, the organization offers emergency preparedness training with a self-paced overview of SBA’s disaster assistance programs, resources and regulations on their website at sba.gov.
You can also receive local business counseling to determine the best way to prepare for emergencies and the next step when disaster strikes. This service is available through the Small Business Development Center, SCORE and the Women Business Center, all funded in part by the SBA. For more emergency preparedness advice, visit ready.gov/business or contact SBA's Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (TTY: 800-877-8339) or firstname.lastname@example.org.