Protect Your Business from a Natural Disaster

Posted October 27th, 2017

A natural disaster can put your whole life at risk. For business owners, there is even more to worry about and prepare for. A natural disaster like Hurricane Harvey in Houston, or the recent wildfires of California can lay ruin to your company.

You may think it would never happen to you, but one in three small business owners have been impacted by a natural disaster at some point or another. And worse yet, researchers at the Institute for Business and Home Safety found that one in four small businesses never reopen after they are impacted by a natural disaster.

Here are a few basic ways to protect your business in case disaster strikes:

1. Insurance. Insurance. Insurance.

Especially in the commercial construction sector, it can feel like you need insurance for everything. But consider that on average, a small business loses $3,000 per day once they close due to a major storm. How long could you stay afloat in a situation like that? Disaster Insurance, Business Owner’s Policies (BOP), or Business Interruption Insurance can be the key to saving your business if the worst happens.

When purchasing insurance for new equipment or for your business property, be sure to ask and understand what is covered and what isn’t in case of a disaster. Take some time to reach out to your current insurance provider to ask: “If my area gets hit with a natural disaster like a hurricane, flood, tornado, earthquake or wildfire, am I covered?” Then make sure the language in your contract is consistent with the answer you receive. This will allow you to be aware of any gaps in your insurance coverage so that you can fill them with additional insurance or set up your own funding methods to protect those assets.

2. Invest in a generator.

One relatively easy way to get your business back up and running after a disaster is to have a generator. After all, just because the grid is down doesn’t mean your office should be. Most businesses can’t operate for long without computer access. In case of a longer-term outage, your team will need access to things like overhead lights, power outlets, printers and a working coffee machine. According to one study, just 29% of small business owners have made the investment.

This is one item you should never buy just before an approaching disaster, since you likely won’t be able to find one anyway, and if you do you’ll probably pay double or triple for it. Plan ahead and do you research while the skies are clear. Find the right generator for you needs and purchase it as soon as you can. Another option is to make sure your employees have the tools and access they need to work remotely.

3. Secure key documents.

What documents does your business need to operate? If all of your work history, contracts, insurance agreements, Rolodex, employee and company information is saved in a file on your office computer, or locked away in a filing cabinet in your office, you need a backup.

This can be in the form of a storage company that can store your physical documents, like Iron Mountain—just make sure the facility is at least 50 miles away—or data centers for your electronic files with a company like Flexential.

4. Develop a thorough plan, and communicate it.

If a storm is coming or your job site is at risk of a natural disaster, ensure you are on the same page as the property owner or general contractor. Know when you would tell your employees to go home and make preparations or what to do in case your area is evacuated. In those cases, how should your team handle any equipment, materials or supplies at the job site? Who is responsible for taking and storing photographs of the site before a storm or natural disaster hits?

In areas where there is risk of tornadoes, flash floods or fast-moving wildfires, you should have a set plan in place for your employees to protect themselves on the job site.

In addition to the owner or GC, if your work schedule is interrupted by a natural disaster, you will likely need to contact vendors, suppliers, subs, your bank or lending partners. Be straightforward if this may impact your ability to make a payment on time or your ability to pick up a delivery. Honesty, initiative and responsiveness go a long way in these instances. 

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