How to Protect Your Business From a Hurricane

In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, it’s important to remind coastal businesses that it’s better to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. You can check with your local building official, city engineer, or planning and zoning administrator to see if your business is at risk for natural disasters.

If you don’t think your business needs a disaster plan, consider this; according to a recent study conducted by Business Insider, natural disasters cost the global economy 2.5 trillion dollars, and at least one in three small business owners say they have personally been affected by a storm or extreme weather. The Institute for Business and Home Safety says that at least twenty-five percent of businesses will close after a natural disaster and never reopen.

Here are just a few ways you can prepare your business for the next hurricane.

Protect Your Building

This is likely the most obvious form of protection as a brick and mortar business can’t remain open if there’s no place to conduct business. If your business is already located in a flood zone, you’ll likely be held to higher protection standards than land-locked businesses.

If you’re building new, look into different building materials that are water and wind resistant (such as steel, brick, stucco, and aluminum). Many buildings lose all or part of their roof after a major hurricane and some must replace saturated drywall if water enters the building. As suggested by FEMA, you should anchor fuel tanks and install sewer backflow valves.

For businesses that already have a permanent location, prepare for a hurricane by conducting a thorough evaluation of your business and the surrounding area, including large trees. If any of them look weak or dead, contact the appropriate city department or local fire department and they should send someone out to trim compromised limbs.

Secure or fix roofing issues before the storm hits and keep sand bags on-hand to place along entryways. When a storm is expected, many people who aren’t prepared will be rushing to gather supplies, so it’s best to have them before you actually need them. If not already in place, install wind resistant or hurricane shutters. Hurricane shutters are there to protect the windows from flying debris because if a window breaks, your business is now facing severe water damage. As an added bonus, these shutters add character to your building and are easy to open and close or attach and detach. Finally, depending on the size of your building, make sure surrounding items (like benches and tables) are secured to the ground or moved inside until the storm passes.

Protect Your Inventory

Most cities experience power outages post hurricane. Install a generator that can supply enough power to last about a week, and only use it for things that are absolutely necessary, such as a restaurant that needs to keep perishable food cold. Entrepreneurs running a small business out of their home should also consider purchasing a small generator and their own portable Wi-Fi hotspot since internet access is their lifeline.

Protect business records. If you keep any paper documents, such as patient files at a doctor’s office, make sure they are at least a foot off the floor. Anchor filing cabinets, large equipment, bookcases and shelving so they don’t tip over if water enters your business. Perhaps most importantly, you need to protect your data.

Protect Your Data

A DR plan is a procedure or process to recover and protect a business IT infrastructure in the event of a disaster. According to a Disaster Recovery Infographic by Infrascale, thirty-six percent of companies can’t afford a disaster recovery (DR) plan, but the cost of downtime could outweigh the cost of a DR plan. One hour of downtime for a small company can cost as much as $8,000, while large enterprises could see a loss of $700,000.

In today’s world, most businesses maintain customer information electronically or in the cloud. Utilizing off-site or cloud computer servers is the best way to protect important records such as accounting, articles of incorporation and client records. Make sure in-office computers and electrical equipment are off the ground where water can’t come into contact. Perform electronic backups of your documents and files and store them off-site.

Retain Emergency Cash Flow

Access to capital will always remain the number one resource for businesses. Thirty-one percent of businesses that don’t have access to capital are unable to grow or expand, while one percent close their doors. Although there will likely be some emergency relief funding available to affected businesses after a natural disaster, it can take time to receive those funds. Business owners should stash away cash every single month to put towards an emergency savings to cover the cost of lost inventory, a decline in sales, or business repairs and equipment replacement.

Consider discussing company plans with staff in the event of a hurricane. Depending on the size of your company, you may need to train key staff members or create a disaster recovery team that can help you with disaster preparedness so you’re not struggling to get everything done before the storm hits.

Preparation is key to avoiding massive losses in the event of a natural disaster. Unfortunately, that’s something many businesses (and homeowners) fail to do.

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