By Lauren Searcy
Hindsight is 20/20. But when disaster strikes, you don’t want that to be your motto. Hurricane season begins June 1 and runs through November 30. Now is the time to get your business prepared. Having a plan will help save you time, money and could help position your business after a disastrous event. Knowing the basics will help you plan out the rest.
Disaster recovery happens in three phases. First, local response teams step in, state aid is sent in as needed, and national aid comes in as a last resort. Your county or area Emergency Operations Center (EOC) should be your initial contact as to what is happening prior to, during, and after a storm. County EOCs are comprised of law enforcement agencies, firefighters, paramedics, weather experts, area business leaders, and local elected officials. They will be able to let you know when you need to close down your business for evacuation and how soon you will be able to reopen. It’s a good idea to go ahead and have a contact readily available in case you need other services, like a tree removed from your building or a gas leak contained. Your local EOC will also be able to help you with that. State Emergency Operations Centers can assist you in creating a plan for your business. You can now store files, numbers, and information on their database. Floridadisaster.org has a myriad of information on how to create a plan, important contacts, and links to every county EOC website. National relief only comes in if state and local efforts are overwhelmed, as was the case in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Get a Plan:
The first part of your plan should be a complete understanding of everything you will need to get business running as usual. As an owner or manager, you are responsible for your employees. Determine who your employees should contact to find out when they will need to leave work or return to work after a storm. Consider having a phone tree in place, or a crisis communication hotline where you can leave specific instructions. Make sure all of your employees are well aware of the multiple post-storm scenarios prior to a disaster. Have all of your records copied and stored in a safe off-site place. Keep a list of important contacts that directly affect your daily business, like suppliers. Have extra hardware and supplies in place in case things cannot be brought in directly after a storm. Secondly, be familiar with your county EOC. Make sure you create a partnership with the local EOC to help in recovery efforts if you are able.
Be Part of the Recovery:
If you are one of the first establishments to open up shop after a storm, use that to your advantage and to the advantage of the area. There will be hundreds of people working to clean up the neighborhoods, restore power, help families, and get things running as usual. Those people will need a place to stay and something to eat. Businesses can play an integral role in recovery. Contact emergency planners during “Blue Skies” or during non-emergency weather situations to determine how you can play a role in the response efforts. For example, if you are in a location near an impacted area you can help the cause by offering up rooms at a discounted rate to people who are contributing to the recovery.
Lauren Searcy is the FRLA Press Secretary.