Six Steps to Disaster Recovery for Business Owners
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. During this time of need, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation provides resources and tools to help small businesses recover after disaster strikes.
Our , made possible by Shell, have tailored tips for small businesses and chambers. Additionally, the Chamber Foundation, in partnership with the UPS Foundation, developed Resilience in a Box—a resource guide based on best practices designed to help educate business leaders on disaster preparedness and business resilience.
Business owners are understandably overwhelmed following a disaster. If your business was impacted by Tropical Storm Gordon or another recent disaster, here are five steps to consider in your journey to recovery. It’s important that business owners take these first few steps, to be deliberate in their recovery.
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. 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.
If you are a business owner and want to know how to help or need help recovering from a recent disaster, the Chamber Foundation’s Disaster Help Desk is also here to help: 1-888-MY-BIZ-HELP (or 1-888-692-4943)