Disaster Help Desk for Business: Behind the Scenes of Preparedness and Response

November 29, 2012

Think back to one month ago. If you were on the Eastern Seaboard you were probably closely tracking Sandy’s path and wondering how it would affect you. In other parts of the country, your news outlets offered you two stories and probably not much else: “Super Storm” Sandy and the elections.

Sandy’s U.S. landfall came one month ago today. BCLC’s free (thanks to the Office Depot Foundation’s generous sponsorship) disaster service for small businesses – the Disaster Help Desk for Business – has been available night and day to assist those affected by Sandy.

Many of you know that BCLC runs the Help Desk for Business, but you might not know specifically how it can be used in times of disaster. That’s why I thought it would be important to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what the Help Desk has been doing in the last month.

This is a letter from our Help Desk manager, Ines Pearce:

It has truly been a crazy time with this storm hitting the most densely populated area in the country. The Help Desk has received 928 emails/calls related to Hurricane Sandy. Before the storm we reached out to the potentially affected states, and of course after landfall we made contact with all of the impacted states. Part of these calls/emails have been from dozens of companies (potential donors) asking for specific details on areas hardest hit.

Since Day 1 we've been working with the five boroughs in New York and their chamber of commerce presidents (including some of the chambers within the boroughs like Brooklyn), as well as state-level business organizations such as the Business Emergency Operations Center (BEOC) in New Jersey. We've spent a considerable amount of time trying to reach the small chambers on the NY/NJ coast that were without power for three+ weeks and enlisted FEMA's outreach teams to make contact while working in those areas.

We have been receiving calls from the smallest of small businesses, beginning about a week after the storm. We are still getting new calls, as well as return callers needing more help after they've hit a road-block or have more questions.

We've helped share info such as the FEMA/SBA conference call information, explained federal assistance to those who need it, and have directed businesses to the Business Recovery Centers so they could get free business counseling to address their other concerns. We've also been using the Help Desk Facebook pageto share response and recovery information by state as it becomes available and have people sharing that information with others. 

We are still in the thick of things. Almost all of the businesses have had a "can do" attitude, regardless of how devastated they are and how bad their news was that day. Staten Island, NY, is still struggling and we're working with a few organizations to determine what they need so that we can help them.

 BCLC will continue to keep the Help Desk open for Hurricane Sandy for as long as it’s needed. If you know of any small businesses that could use the type of information described above, please share this with them:


Disaster Help Desk for Business
Phone: 888-MY BIZ HELP / 888-692-4943
Email: BCLChelpdesk@uschamber.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/BCLChelpdesk
Twitter: @BCLChelpdesk


Prepare Now

We at BCLC also want to take this opportunity to urge businesses across the nation to not wait for a disaster to threaten your community to spur you into thinking about preparedness or re-opening. Of the small businesses that don’t have emergency readiness plans, 43% are never able to re-open once disaster hits. These small business closings can have tremendous implications for the local community, the economy, as well as to the owner/operator and their families.

In addition to Sandy response information, the Help Desk is ready to help businesses prepare for future disasters. Plus, BCLC’s corporate network has a tremendous amount of insight and experience to share about managing operations, supply chains, employee support programs, and more during disaster times. If you’d like to help a small business get started on a preparedness plan, give our disaster experts, Ines and Gerald McSwiggan, a shout.