After a Hurricane or other natural disaster, families and neighborhoods affected focus their attention to the loss of personal effects, but what about those with businesses in the path of destruction? Many people forget the costly impact that a disaster can have on a business and its employees. If a business loses power, they can lose supplies; they can miss important meetings and appointments, lose data and customers, and end up with enormous losses for themselves, employees and the community.
So how do you go about protecting your business before and after a disaster like Sandy? Similar to managing personal finances, business finances and budgets must be strictly adhered to for consistent and smooth operation. An emergency fund of cash on hand is a necessity these days in order to survive through not only a financial crisis but unexpected business interruptions. This means that during the course of your monthly and yearly budgeting reviews, a definite plan for contributing to an emergency fund with cash should be part of the normal course of business. To do this and to properly budget, consider your specific business and the needs your business will have during and after an interruption. Consider not only the geographical location of the actual business and clients but that of key employees and data. Know your operating costs on a daily and weekly basis. Understand that you may need cash to pay for goods or services after crises and that credit may not be an option. As such having that cash reserve from your emergency fund on hand will be key to your businesses survival.
Equally as important and a tip for business survival is one which is almost always forgotten after the initial policy activates which is to sit down with your insurance agent. The suggestion that this be done yearly is a must for a business if you want to survive and get through a catastrophe. Review the policy and policies to insure coverage for data backup, lost data, business and security breaches that may have occurred during the storm. A policy should cover loss and damage not only to the site, the inventory, equipment, employee salaries, debts, bills and office supplies that you need to run your business but liability should someone be injured from something from your business during a Storm or disaster. You want to be sure you have proper insurance for flooding, water damage, natural disaster, if your building or location is no longer inhabitable. Cover all the bases with your agent and go over your business policy carefully. If possible, you want to try to avoid putting these expenses on a high interest credit card. Since income is limited during these times you do not want to start getting your company and self into debt which can easily happen if you are not properly insured and/or you do not have an emergency fund. Attempt to make a claim with your insurance company or the government regardless as you may be able to cover some of the costs even if the damage and loss is not completely covered.
Have an emergency plan. Know who to call for help and relief. Speak with your business attorney and get in the know about laws related to paying staff and other obligations during a crisis. Help guide your staff and employees after the storm as they may be out of commission to help you. This includes temporary office space or a temporary staff set up to get in touch with clients or customers if necessary. Consider a generator if you own a restaurant or grocery store to avoid having food spoil and help to remain open during and after a storm without losing many dollars. You need your business up and running as soon as possible.
On the other hand, many businesses are affected because of both a lack of power and loss of phones. A doctor’s office, law office or financial company may end up with broken contracts, missed meetings and disgruntled business associates and clients. They will be unable to get on databases and may not be able to redirect their phone systems. Talk to your company IT and phone providers to find out how to reroute calls and data during the repair process to minimize loss of business. Most people will understand your circumstances, try your best to reach out to clients, colleagues and customer by sending a mass email and letting them know the predicament you are in and that you are not out just down for the moment and will be back. Make sure they know how to get in contact with you if need be.
If you are an employee and not an owner and you work in an hourly position, you may find yourself out of work for a few days while towns restore power and order. Being out of work may put your income below what you planned for the month. The loss of income can easily can lead someone even deeper into debt, causing you to spend what you do not have or planned for(before and after the storm). Look into unemployment options and talk to your employer about when they plan to reopen and when you can get back to work. If you were affected by the storm you may be able to collect federal disaster unemployment compensation. Call 1-888-209-8124 to find out more information and see if you apply.
Having a plan of action can mean the difference between survival and loss during unexpected natural disasters. Below are agencies that can offer help if you have a business who has been affected by Sandy. Reach out to them and find out how to help your business stay in business and even prosper during serious interruptions.
SBA Disasters Loans: SBA provides low interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes and private, nonprofit organizations to repair or replace real estate, personal property, machinery & equipment, inventory and business assets that have been damaged or destroyed in a declared disaster.
Additional Resources: These links point to websites created and maintained by other excellent organizations that may be of interest to you.
SBA Office of Disaster Assistance: Provides low-interest, long-term loans to small businesses owners who need help replacing or repairing personal property, equipment, inventory or business assets. The interest rates on the loans range from 4 percent to 8 percent and can be repaid over as much as 30 years.
SBA Disaster Centers: The SBA has disaster offices located in NY and across the country that can provide information and assistance quickly to businesses that incur damage from a natural disaster.
DisasterSafety.org: Provides a step-by-step guide to swiftly but safely getting your business back on track following emergencies and natural and man-made disasters.
DisasterAssistance.gov: Provides more general information and assistance application materials for individuals seeking help following a natural disaster.
FEMA Disaster Assistance: Provides assistance to individuals whose property was damaged in a federally-declared disaster who may not be fully covered by their insurance plans.
American Red Cross: Provides disaster relief intended to address immediate emergency needs and can offer translation and interpretation services to victims of the storm.
Nassau County Department of Emergency Management.
Suffolk County Department of Emergency Management.
NYC Department of Emergency Management.