What? Already! June Starts the Beginning of Hurricane Season | SBDC UNF

What? Already! June Starts the Beginning of Hurricane Season

For those of us living in Florida, we received an indication that the Hurricane Season is beginning when the first named storm formed in May (Tropical Storm Arthur). While it did not pose a threat to Florida, it was a good reminder that businesses should prepare (for those that do not have them) or update their contingency and emergency plans. This alert also applies to those of you not likely to be affected by a hurricane, as every area has natural threats of some kind. Whether they are from earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornados, or volcanic eruptions does not matter. What matters is that your business is prepared to protect its staff, mitigate any risks, regroup after the event, and sustain its operations.

Protecting Staff – Your business should already have a fire drill plan, first aid kits, and posted emergency numbers to deal with any issues in the workplace. You should also have primary and secondary emergency contact numbers for staff. Primary ones are immediate family, and secondary ones are family or friends they might go to if they had to evacuate their home. Contacts should include cell phones as well as email addresses. You should give your staff the resources they need to create family emergency plans as well. A good source of information can be found at www.ready.gov/make-a-plan.

Mitigating Risks – For known or expected risks, you should have mitigations in place. If an area has potential for earthquakes, securing shelves to the floor or wall can prevent them from falling on anybody. Keeping breakable and heavy items at a lower level will lessen the danger to people if they fall off a shelf. Areas with floods can keep flood dams on hand to keep water from entering doorways and could make sure that drains and drainage areas are kept clear. Hurricane shutters can keep windows and doors from being broken or blown open, and a backup generator can protect any perishable items a business may have. A safe room can protect customers and staff in the event of a tornado and be used as a storeroom as long as sufficient space for people is left open. Volcanic eruptions, at least in the U.S. seem to provide some advance warning, so the mitigation in this case might be to have an alternate location in mind, and pre-planned access to trucks for moving equipment and inventory if the area is likely to be evacuated in the near future.

Regrouping After the Event – When the event is over, having your insurance policies and contacts at hand will speed up the process of making claims if needed. If there is damage and you are fixing it or having it fixed, remember to take photographs first to document the damage. Having your tax returns and financial statements on hand will expedite applications for any emergency grants or loans that may be available. All information should also be in hardcopy form in the event that access to electronic versions is not possible due to Internet issues, power failure, or hardware problems.

Reopening – Contact your staff, customers, and vendors (you should have lists for all of them) and let them know when you plan to reopen. If your site is too damaged to reopen quickly, having a potential alternate location to operate from temporarily may be the best approach. Especially if you have to relocate temporarily, but otherwise in all events, use news, press releases, and social media to let the community know you are open for business again.

Sustaining Operations – If possible, have a commercial line of credit (or even a credit card) on standby for disaster recovery as it will help with one-time costs and offset any initially low cash flow following reopening. It will also provide a buffer between any costs incurred and when insurance or emergency loan monies are received. Review what happened, which mitigations worked, and which ones didn’t, and update your plan for the next time a business disruption occurs. If your premises were damaged and you have to rebuild, incorporate future mitigations into the construction. Stronger windows, additional drains, and other similar items can eliminate or reduce future damage.

You should never fear storms or natural events… they happen! In business, disruptions happen. What you should do is be aware of what may happen, make plans to minimize the impact, and plans to recover from any outcomes. Planning and preparing for disruptions will make your business more resilient and sustainable.

 

By Dr. Phil Geist, Associate Director (West), Small Business Consultant, Florida SBDC at UNF

 

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