Seven Hurricane Recovery Steps for Business Owners
Our hearts are with the communities in North Carolina and South Carolina and other impacted areas dealing with the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Florence. 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. Our Disaster Recovery Quick Guides, made possible by Shell, also have tailored tips for small businesses and chambers.
Communities and businesses are intertwined—business can only be as successful as the community and vis versa. When businesses struggle to recover after a disaster—the community cannot continue to recover.
Right now, many business owners are understandably overwhelmed by Hurricane Florence. Below I’ve outlined seven 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. Visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention site to learn more about additional safety concerns and precautions.
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. 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 bleach. 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/
4. 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. Get frequently asked questions Factsheet about these loans and how to apply. 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
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.
Additionally, 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.
6. Connect with the Local Economy
After a disaster, the community is relying on your goods, products, and services. Also, you and your employees are relying on revenue for paychecks. Connect with local Economic Development offices and Chambers of Commerce to help spread the word that you are open for business. Find creative ways to make your business standout, especially if you are hard to find due to damage in surrounding areas. Be flexible and look for possible temporary locations to go where potential customers are. Get engaged with community and recovery organizations to help bring back the community. Your involvement will highlight needs your business may be able to address. Your efforts can help the community to recover, too.
7. Celebrate Milestones
The business recovery process is immense, stressful, and labor intensive. When people are already busy and potentially burdened by recovery efforts, celebrating milestones may seem frivolous. But do not overlook the need to address the employees’ mental health and to assure that their hard work has purpose, progress is being made, and light exists at the end of the tunnel.
Support and promote recovery events that bring together all agencies at federal, state, and local levels and other resources to assist individuals, families, businesses, and other organizations. Celebrate your reopening and highlight your goods and services as an opportunity to market to potential new customers, especially those waiting on other businesses to reopen.
Businesses in the impacted areas 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).