Did you know that approximately forty percent of small businesses that close due to hurricane damage never reopen? For those of us living on the East Coast, hurricane season is officially defined as June 1 – November 30 of each year. Is your business prepared for when a hurricane hits? These helpful steps will allow you to be proactive in preparing for a potential disaster.
Step 1: Protect Important Documents
It’s likely that most of your important documents, contact information, and other essentialinformation is saved in an electronic form. It is critical that these files are backed up and don’texist on a single hard drive. You can use services like iCloud, Dropbox, or Google Drive to back up your files in an affordable and secure way. Spend a few moments making sure that you understand how to access your documents and that the recovery technology works as you expect it to.
If any of your documents still exist in paper form, make two copies of each. Seal one copy of each document into a water-proof container for on-site storage and secure the second copy of each document in a safe location off-site. This is especially important for documents that are difficult to reproduce quickly, such as insurance statements, tax returns, and legal documents.
You can take document protection one step further by preparing emergency records that will allow you to take fast action after the storm. Comprehensive emergency records will include all of the materials contained within your Corporate Records Book, as well as your corporate taxes, personal taxes, W-9, and insurance policies. Keeping these financial records safe will allow you to access vital capital in the wake of the storm. You should also secure a copy of your lease, deed, or mortgage, in the event that issues arise with your office space or storefront. If you do own the company workspace, consider having it audited for value. Finally, keep an accurate inventory not only of the products you may have in stock, but also of the equipment, furniture, fixtures, etc. within your workspace, so that they may be easily replaced without draining your bank account.
Step 2: Protect Property
There are several steps that you should take to protect your storefront or office. Begin by talking to your insurance agent. Find out what exactly will be covered, and what won’t, so that yourpreparation time is spent as effectively as possible. You should also be familiarizing yourself withthe building layout. Identify places related to utilities, as you’ll want to shut them off before the hurricane hits land if at all possible. If necessary, consider raising hot water heaters and other utilities off the ground in case of flooding.
Consider the security of the exterior of the building. Take the time to have the roof evaluated to see if it can withstand a storm or if it should be repaired. If applicable, install storm shutters on doors and windows, which will prevent damage from flying debris.
Inside the storefront or office, begin by anchoring heavy furniture and shelving to wall studs. Secure electronics, such as computers, using Velcro or straps. Immediately before a storm, remove any items of extremely high value and items that are irreplaceable for safekeeping.
Step 3: Protect Yourself and Your Employees
If you have a storefront, office, or other company location, it is important that the property itself and the people working within are prepared for the worst. Create a checklist of necessary supplies and check yearly to be sure that everything is in working order, that batteries are fresh, nothing has expired, and everything is present and easily accessible in case of an emergency.
Some suggestions for your supply checklist include:
Three-day supply of water
Non-perishable food items
Step 4: Plan for the Aftermath
• First-Aid Kit
• Whistle/flare for attracting help
• Cell phone power banks and charging cords
• Cleaning supplies• Fire extinguishers• Emergency cash
Once the hurricane has subsided, it’s likely that the entire community will be in recovery mode, scrambling to provide assistance to those affected by the storm. It’s important that you have a plan for ensuring that your business operations don’t shut down completely in the interim.
It’s imperative that you have a method for communicating with your employees in an emergencysituation, as well in the time directly afterwards, as cell phones and landlines may not be reliable. Because texting is generally more reliable than phone calls directly after a storm, consider implementing an emergency texting plan so that everyone can stay in contact. Alternatively, consider creating a company Facebook page specifically for emergency notifications.
In the event that you lose access to your cell phone or digitally stored contacts, you’ll want to havea document that contains all of the necessary contact information for anybody involved with your business, including employees, CPAs, attorneys, insurance agents, bankers, and utility companies. Being able to contact these important figures quickly will allow you to begin settling any issues that the storm may have caused without the kind of delay that could make or break your business.
You must also consider the possibility that your office may not be operational again for some time, depending on the amount of damage it has sustained. Is there someplace else, safe and undamaged, that your employees can continue to work from? A backup office space is always a good idea.You’ll want to prepare a kit of essentials for this temporary office, including items essential toyour operation, such as letterhead, checks, and cash.
Finally, you need to be prepared for your relationships with vendors, landlords, and other entities, to be affected by the storm. Review your contracts ahead of time, to be sure they include a provision for what is to happen in an emergency situation.
Hurricanes can be a terrifying event full of uncertainty and chaos. Taking steps to protect your business and its valuable assets can eliminate some of your anxieties and allow you to focus on what really matters: the safety of yourself and those around you.
Francine E. Love is the Founder & Managing Attorney at Love Law Firm, PLLC which dedicates its practice to Business Law. The opinions expressed are those of the author. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice. To learn more about LOVE LAW FIRM please see our website, www.lovelawfirmpllc.com, or call us at 516-697-4828.