Five Recovery Steps for Business Owners in Louisiana
Our hearts are with the communities in Louisiana dealing with the devastating flooding. In this time of need the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation provides resources and tools to help small businesses recover after disaster strikes. Our Disaster Help Desk for Business 1-888-MY-BIZ-HELP provides one-on-one advice and expertise to help you navigate the recovery process, supported by the Office Depot Foundation. Our Disaster Recovery Quick Guides also have tailored tips for small businesses and chambers.
Small businesses are the very fabric of the community. When they are hit by disaster, the entire community is impacted and therefore recovery can be indefinitely delayed.
In my role with the Help Desk, I’ve seen first-hand how business owners can become overwhelmed by a disaster. Below I’ve outlined five steps to consider as you start your recovery journey. It’s important that business owners take these first few steps, to be deliberate in their recovery. Please reach out to the Help Desk (1-888-MY-BIZ-HELP) to learn more and receive direct assistance in addressing your business’ recovery circumstances.
1. Safety is a Primary Concern
It’s important to remember that flood water is not clean water. It could be contaminated and hazardous to your health. Make sure to take proper precautions when accessing your facility and know that the water could leave contaminates behind after it recedes. Always wear protective gear including masks and gloves. Also remember standing water can increase the presence of mosquitos, so use bug spray as well.
2. Document Everything
Many business owners are anxious to start the clean-up process, but don’t forget to document everything first and send it to your insurance company. Take photos and videos as soon as you gain access to your business for insurance purposes. Take these photos and videos from different angles, the more the better. Also, do not just document damage to your physical structures, document damages to inventory, supplies, furniture, contents, equipment, and business losses from interruption.
Additionally, back up all your documentation to cloud storage, as this will ensure you always have your documentation for insurance purposes. Also track expenses, keep receipts or invoices for all clean-up supplies, repairs and replacement of damaged property purchased as a result of the flooding.
3. Register for Federal Assistance
Even if your business doesn’t have any immediately apparent damage, it is still important to register for federal assistance before the deadline occurs. The U.S. Small Business Administration offers low interest loans for physical damage and economic injury. There is no obligation to accept these funds, but businesses should keep their options open in case they chose to later. Also, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has grants if business owners or their employees were impacted at home. For more information, go to www.disasterassistance.gov
4. Clean as Quickly as Possible
Once the water recedes and you’ve documented any damage, begin cleaning your business as quickly as possible. Mold and bacteria can appear quickly when the damage from flooding is not immediately addressed. If you still have standing water, rent a sump pump to remove it.
Make sure to clean then disinfect every surface using hot water and a strong cleaner like chlorine. Take furniture outside to dry or use a dehumidifier. Remove water contaminated wall boards, plaster, floor boards, and paneling. For how to clean equipment and other items, visit http://www.floodsafety.com/national/property/cleanup/
5. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Communicate with staff, vendors, suppliers, customers, your local chamber, and community. You want to establish the lines of communications early and updated often, such as your progress cleaning up and when you’ll be reopening. You’ll also want to check in with all your staff immediately to make sure they are okay, and that their family and loved ones are safe.
Social media is a great way to quickly communicate with many different audiences. If you are going to be closed for an extended period, you can keep your customers aware of your progress and encourage them to join you in your re-opening.
Also tap into your local chamber as a resource to communicate. The chamber is a voice of business and during this time can be a great resource..
Businesses in Louisiana are just now starting their recovery journey, and they need all the help they can get. If you are a business owner, and want to know how to help, or need help recovering, please contact the Disaster Help Desk at 1-888-MY-BIZ-HELP (or 1-888-692-4943).