Hurricane Michael was a stark reminder of how quickly a hurricane can escalate. As the 2019 storm season begins, preparations should be under way not only for Florida residents, but businesses of every type and size.
Like homeowners, businesses must work to mitigate damage, and have a plan -- for business owners, many with networks of employees, it is critical to develop a disaster preparedness plan and to urge families to do the same.
Florida Surplus Lines Association has collected some of the best resources for businesses at www.myfsla.com/hurricanes. The industry -- which supports risk-taking businesses throughout Florida and is often dubbed a “safety valve” covering risks the standard market refuses -- urges businesses to take steps now, before a storm is even named, to better prepared for the possibility of at least 10 days without power, and maybe even more.
Quite often, depending on your grid, you may not be on the high priority list to have power restored. All businesses need to make sure all their files are backed up. Check and make sure your backup can also be restored. If you store your information in the cloud, practice how to access this info from a remote location.
If you can obtain a generator, have it ready to go with plenty of fuel. You will need to have multiple large, heavy-gauge extension cords to spread throughout the office to run your computers.
Do NOT run a computer through a generator. I cannot emphasize this enough. Computers need to run through a battery backup that is running through the generator. This acts as a regulator and will prevent surge issued on your hardware and software.
If you have social media and access to your website, make sure your customers have an alternative way to contact you, as quite often cell phones will be down. If you have other locations, pre-transfer your phones to that location prior to the storm.
Before you leave your office, pick up all electronics from the floor and move them away from windows. Cover them with plastic in case the roof leaks. If you are in an area that floods, sand bags in front of the doorways may also be helpful.
It is also important that you have several ways to contact your staff after the storm. Have a plan to make sure you can communicate and check on your team. Most importantly, be safe.
The type of damage after a storm will depend on the type of business. You may experience loss of location to operate, loss to your computer systems or loss of stock. Be prepared to operate from another location, and if you are a service business, consider how you would operate from your parking lot if your building is not able to be used. These are major operational shifts to contemplate, but it is better to think about them now.
Avoid preventable mistakes. If you have a generator, make sure it runs and that you have plenty of gas and oil. Make sure extension cords are long enough to get where they need to go. Keep provisions at the office like water and snacks. Your business’ toilets might not flush, so know where you can get water to make them flush – this may be a pool or a lake. Keep a large bucket around for the water. Have hand sanitizer to prevent the spread of bacteria.
After a storm, most people in your community will be in the same boat as you. Be patient and compassionate, as everyone will be under great stress. Some employees and customers may have lost everything. Do what you can to help them get to the next day and get to the other side.
Florida businesses serve important roles in their community, and the quicker they can get back up to supply goods and services, the quicker everyone can get back to some sense of normalcy. It’s your business to be prepared.
Steven Finver is the area vice president at Risk Placement Services in Fort Lauderdale, and he is a member of the Florida Surplus Lines Association.