After Hurricane Matthew, I wanted to do a quick piece on this topic as the natural disaster left many fellow patriots in shambles. Perhaps they had the foresight to plan and prepare their homes, but too many businesses were affected. It's a sad fact that as many as 40 percent of businesses fail to reopen following a natural disaster. Now I don't care if you're an employee or an employer, it makes sense to have a disaster plan in place for your workplace. Just like having a crisis plan at home, just knowing who is responsible for what and having a set of steps to follow in a disaster can make all the difference. Now it's not always foolproof, and depending on the severity of the storm there will probably be some level of damages incurred by a business. Our goal is to reduce these, and ensure your staff make it safely through a storm, along with getting your business back up and operational as fast as possible. Here's how:
Safeguard your assets
The first step is to secure your business. Get storm shutters installed on every door and window, or if you're looking for a cheaper solution cut plywood boards to fit. Don't forget to buy enough screws and have an electric power drill available so you can secure them in place in a hurry. Outside, do a quick walk around and get a contractor in to trim back any large trees that could fall and damage your store. Get an inspector in to ensure your roof is strong enough to withstand the wind forces of a storm, and consider reinforcing your doors and windows to discourage any looters in the aftermath. Inside, you're going to need to secure everything. Get braces and screw everything that could fall over to your wall studs. Things like book cases, stock shelves, and filing cabinets all need to be safely secured in place. If there's any critical documents or especially valuable items, take them to your bank and keep them in a safety-deposit-box, or invest in a fire/water-proof safe.
Safeguard your operations
The biggest problem with storms is it throws a spanner into your daily operations. If you've got only minutes to prepare to evacuate, you're not going to have enough time to save important documents to a USB, or to pack boxes and boxes of files into the back of your car. There's just not enough time. Smart business owners need to prepare beforehand. We take a three-stage approach to backups at my business. Everything we are working on is automatically saved in the cloud, which gives us access to it by simply logging in from any computer with an internet connection. That means my team isn't tied to a single location, should any form of crisis keep us from reaching the office. In addition, the cloud storage we use is automatically downloaded to a local server once a week, and is stored on an external hard drive, should the cloud version ever be compromised. Finally, we've got hardcopies of client info, legal agreements, also all of our company documents in both our local bank, and in a water-tight (and fire-proof) safe in my home. No matter what happens, my business isn't going to suffer if our office is shut down.
Start preparing immediately
Once a hurricane warning has been issued, don't delay your preparations just to finish a few more things. The work will wait. If you don't react fast enough, you won't get everything done. First, you've got to protect everything that can be water damaged. Pack up any electronics and computers, unplug them from the sockets and at a minimum store them on the highest shelves you've got. Just in case you get localized flooding and water runs through your shop. Personally, I'd also wrap every electronic device I've got in a heavy-duty garbage bag to help keep them dry, and I'd stack sandbags at least 15-20 inches high at every doorway. Next, I'd get my windows boarded up, and send all my employee's home if there's still any who have stayed to help out with the final preparations. Run around quickly and turn your water, gas and power off at the mains, then lock up as you leave and fasten the storm shutters on the door. It's probably also a good time to offer a quick prayer that the damage won't be too bad.
Have a backup plan
With all of this, it's also worth considering what would happen if you're not able to leave your office. Perhaps the storm has blown in quicker than you thought, or the traffic jams mean you won't make it home before the hurricane hits. There's nothing worse than trying to live off coffee and creamer for 72 hours because you didn't prepare any supplies beforehand. If you're the boss I'd recommend dedicating part of your supply room for a disaster kit. Keep a battery operated radio in there, a torch, along with at least three day's supply of food and water. You should already have a first-aid kit in your office, but if not now is a good time to get this in order. I'd also advise getting some camping mattresses and bedding, so you're ready to ride out the storm with your employees in a little comfort. If you're an employee, I'd never leave my ability to survive in the hands of my boss. Before starting my own business I always kept a bug-out-backed tucked under my desk, in behind my drawers. Get one of our sturdy tactical backpacks
, and have at least 72 hours worth of critical supplies, just in case. Mine was only noticed a couple of times, by a particularly effective cleaner and one colleague, who both immediately dismissed it when I said "oh yeah that's my gym bag." Being prepared for anything is key to survival, so don't forget your workplace when you're getting ready to ride out a hurricane. Many steps need to be prepared long in advance, so you're ready to act with a moment's notice once the SHTF. Start today, and you'll thank me the next time a storm hits.