Three ways small businesses can prepare for hurricane season

Sep 4, 2018

Preparing for hurricane season can make or break your business this fall.

It’s hurricane season again, meaning everyone is gearing up for potential storms and the inevitable aftermath… right?

Unfortunately, those who have the most to lose to unpredictable weather (homeowners, businesses, local governments and organizations) often only think about recovery after the fact. A robust disaster recovery plan is not just a loosely touted emergency scheme—it requires just as much attention to the preparation and recovery post storm.

I’ve listed three action items below that local businesses can do to secure the right support systems in case an ugly storm with a first name comes knocking. They cover priority areas that affect the day-to-day operations of any business’ agenda.

1. Review your immediate action plan

In the spirit of the upcoming National Preparedness Month, let’s revisit a procedure that you may have buried in the company files—but may have neglected to update in the absence of any recent emergencies.

Your immediate disaster response process should be up-to-date (annually) with best practices; it should also account for any recently-hired staff who might have missed training. For example, rehearsing an evacuation plan goes a long way in making sure your most valuable assets are secured and infrastructure remains intact. This begins and ends with strong communication with your team -- at every level of the management chain.

Become familiarized with your community's disaster response plan. Chambers of Commerce and business associations should have a role in the development of the community disaster response and recovery program.

Small check-ins go a long way as well. Emergency supplies like first-aid kits, fire extinguishers, flashlights, and non-perishables should be stocked and inventoried.

Small businesses have the luxury of waiving many contrived corporate training practices—however, getting your staff on-board and in compliance (yes, including family) with basic policies can mean a world of difference when a natural disaster knocks on your door.

2. Establish a post-disaster business continuity plan

Following the immediate disaster response, business owners and managers tend to gear straight into damage control. What does that entail?

Your continuity plan outlines how you’ll get operations up and running as quickly as possible. Following an emergency -- whether it’s a weather event, power outage, or terrorism attack -- businesses can deploy a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) that is tailored to their specific conditions.

  • The critical functions staff must perform, regardless of the emergency;
  • The personnel and resources needed to perform those functions;
  • How do you contact them in the event of an emergency;
  • What to do if the staff is unable to operate;
  • How to get up and running again after the emergency.

Communicate directly with your staff to identify their specific challenges, including personal/medical limitations and difficulties returning to work. Are your records, documents, and personal information data secured, protected, backed up, and stored in an off-site location? Research shows that small businesses that experience significant data loss are at high risk of failure post-storm.

These are just a few of the many questions you’ll need to address internally to ensure your organization’s agility and efficiency in rebounding from an emergency.

3. Develop a long-term contingency plan

Businesses can ultimately avoid becoming consumed in the confusion and shock following a natural disaster by building an extended sustainable plan into their overall priorities.

This is more focused on going the extra mile—positioning your business to stay afloat if and when an emergency occurs. Here are a few helpful actions that managers can implement over time:

  • Review your hazard insurance and keep all policies up to date insurance policies. Verify that you have adequate coverage for wind and flood events. Ensure that you will have immediate access to these policies post disaster.
  • Where are your suppliers and vendors (if local, have you identified alternatives outside the region)?
  • Work with IT vendor to develop preparedness and recovery plan for equipment and data.
  • Actively build partnerships in the community and local government.
  • Test your immediate action plans and COOP regularly through drills and training sessions.

For a more comprehensive view into a robust strategy and guidance, read about the full spectrum of disaster recovery services.

Florida's economy depends upon successful rebuilding of small businesses in affected communities - see how ICF supported post-disaster recovery in Florida.

Subscribe to get our latest insights

Meet the authors
  1. Brandy Bones, Vice President, Disaster Management

    Brandy Bones is committed to helping communities prepare for and recover from natural disasters. View bio