As if it wasn’t enough for small business owners to be dealing with the second year of a pandemic, now shops in many states are being hit by natural disasters ranging from flooding to fire and smoke. These events, caused by environmental factors such as storms, floods and droughts, are becoming more common thanks to climate change. Even if your business is in an area that has never experienced a natural disaster, you may not be immune in the future, so it’s wise to be prepared.
Your main concern is of course to make sure that your employees are safe and accounted for. It’s important to follow the recommendations of local authorities regarding closure and evacuation. It’s a good idea to give your managers the authority to make the decision to close if you can’t be reached, and to go over how to secure the premises. An email, phone chain or text list including all staff members is essential so that you can communicate any emergency actions.
Social media and email blasts can help you keep your customers in the loop about the fact that you have closed temporarily. You’ll also want to let them know when you are able to reopen, and whether you can provide any services (such as drop shipping of goods from vendors) during the time that you are closed. Be sure to have your log-in information at home or on your phone.
Is your store data backed up remotely? So much of our information is no longer on paper, which is a good thing if your files get flooded. But if you don’t have this data backed up on the cloud, you could lose essential financial records. You might also want to keep copies of some important documents at home or in a safe deposit box at your bank.
Check with your insurance agent to see whether your coverage includes natural disasters. If it does, make sure that your policy is up to date regarding the value of your property and inventory in case you need to replace it. Unfortunately policies in disaster-prone areas often exclude “acts of God,” which could include events not caused or controlled by humans, such as earthquakes, floods, or wildfires. Other natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornados and lightning storms may be covered, so it’s a good idea to look into this with your agent.
In addition to seeing to our own preparedness, we need to pay attention to our stewardship of the planet. There is a strong link between natural disasters and climate change, so the first step to preventing potential disasters is reducing our impact on the environment for the sake of us all. We owe it to our colleagues currently trying to recover from the effects of intense rainfalls, storms and fires to do what we can to prevent these phenomena from continuing to harm our communities.
Carol “Orange” Schroeder