7 Tips for Natural Disaster Business Resilience

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The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season is predicted to lead to costlier damages than previous years and produce more named storms than the average season. With nearly three months remaining, the U.S. and surrounding areas have already been overwhelmed by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. FEMA and individual State coffers are being taxed to their limit.

Damage estimates place Harvey alone as costlier than Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. Now, more than ever, business owners and insurance carriers alike are on high alert. It is becoming clearer to both individuals and businesses that preparation is the key to saving lives and property. All it takes is one storm to wipe out your business, causing you and your employees significant personal and professional loss.

In preparation for the latter half of the season, consider the following six tips to ensure your business and facility stay as safe as possible:

  1. Review Your Business Emergency Plan, Including Business Coverage, Emergency Response and Disaster Recovery. First, review your insurance coverage as well as revisit your crisis management plan and calculate this year’s potential business interruption costs, as it’s likely increased sincFirestorm Shelter from Storme last year’s hurricane season. Your crisis management team should review their partnerships with remediation firms and prepare to recover with an effective business continuity plan. This will include essential services like electricity and water supply as well as turning off gas and electricity on short notice. Establishing a backup location for your business and employee meetings, coordinating with neighboring businesses and building management, will be critical as well.
  2. Plan for Transportation and Supply Chain Disruption. In advance of an approaching storm, review options to postpone unnecessary incoming shipments, or accelerate outgoing shipments. Seek information on road and bridge conditions before driving long distances or routing shipments through affected areas. Similarly, consider travel disruptions, including canceled flights, potential change fees for rerouted flights and when necessary, delay checking out of hotels before verifying travel. Understand that disasters can also affect your suppliers and other businesses not directly impacted by the storm, causing a disruption and potentially a domino effect along the supply chain.
  3. Understand Damage Potential. Even sturdy buildings can fall victim to roof and wall failures during a major storm. Prepare for locations to be uninhabitable for weeks or months after a storm. Understand that winds increase rapidly with elevation, especially in high-rise buildings over 30 stories where winds can be a full category higher than those at the ground level. When it comes to water damage, know that floodwaters can carry bacteria, oil, heavy metals and pesticides, and therefore, proper cleaning and preparation for rebuilding are critical to protect occupants from short-term hazards and long-term risks.
  4. Handle Communications and Data Appropriately. If your business doesn’t already, start backing up data to the cloud, and routinely back up files to an off-site location so that if disaster strikes your business can continue seamlessly. Set up a call forwarding service at a backup location as well. This might include single or multiple hotline numbers for employees, their families, customers and partners.
  5. Post Hurricane: Restart Business Activity. Once it’s safe to return to your place of business, use a camera or phone to document photos and video clips of damages. Send to your broker and insurance company, and maintain a copy for your records. When it comes to damage repair, establish regular communication with local officials who can provide approval for building reconstruction and contact funding sources for restoration, including your insurance broker and carrier.
    Hurricane Matthew Preparation

    A Subway on James Island, SC in preparation for Hurricane Matthew in October 2016

    If the facility isn’t safe or requires repairs, consider allowing employees to telecommute, or open with reduced hours or limited services. Notify customers of your availability, as they may assume the worst, seeing images of the storm’s aftermath in media outlets. The more information you give them the higher the chances they will continue to purchase from you. If you know, tell them when you’ll re-open, when you can take orders over the phone or via email/your website and when deliveries will resume.

  6. Beware of Scams. After the storm has passed, be wary of someone showing up unannounced to discuss issues of insurance or restoration, including a property survey without directly contacting you ahead of time. Similarly, don’t let an unsolicited contractor inside. Remain vigilant when it comes to malicious cyber activity seeking to capitalize on the storm as well.
  7. Monitor what is Being Said. Planning requires you to educate your divisions, locations, affiliates, franchises and all others involved with your business on your disaster protocol. One location sharing false, misleading, unclear or incorrect information can damage your brand and put employees and others at risk. You must have the ability to monitor social and traditional media in real-time, and have an escalation workflow defined prior to a crisis. Just ask Pizza Hut.

For additional insights and tips on how to become prepared to handle a natural disaster, download a Q&A paper with Jim Satterfield, Natural Disaster Preparedness.

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