By Mitchell Sharp

And now is the best time to initiate that process for your business.

Natural disasters have occurred in enormous amounts in recent months.  Hurricanes Harvey dumped enough water on Texas to fill the Houston Astrodome with water 85,000 times.  Hurricane Irma left 6.5 million people without power in Florida. Many people in Puerto Rico, still do not have electricity or clean drinking water. Mexico has experienced two of the strongest earthquakes in decades, all while several states across the Western United states are experiencing the wildfires that have burned an area the size of the state of Maryland.  The quantity and magnitude of these natural disasters should show business owners everywhere that now is the time to prepare your business for when a disaster strikes. Here are several ways to help your small business prepare for and respond to an emergency.

What steps can a small business owner take before a disaster?

Evaluate what disasters you actually face

Every business faces some type of natural disaster. Some of those disasters you have the ability to predict (tornadoes in the Midwest, Hurricanes in Florida, Earthquakes in California, etc.), but other natural disasters are not so easy to plan for. No matter where your business operates, your organization faces some risk. The best run organizations have plans in place well in advance of when those disaster strike and those plans start with determining what disasters are most imminent and how you can best prepare your organization for them.

If you live in the Nebraska, you more than likely do not need to prepare for a hurricane. If you live in Texas, you may not need to prepare for a snow storm. But you can learn from other businesses who have faced these types of disasters in other areas of the country. If your business may face extreme weather, it is important to determine what that weather might be and how you can keep your employees safe while dealing with those temperatures. No matter what disasters you face, the more preparation you give to all types of natural disasters, the better prepared you will be to deal with your businesses emergencies.

Create a disaster preparedness kit

Before you determine what disasters you face and how you will determine how the business will continue to operate post disaster, it is important to come up with some sort of a disaster preparedness kit to help you and your employees deal with spending an extended time at your facility. All kits should include the basic first aid supplies as well as batteries, water treatment, canned foods, alternative communication tools and back up sources for power.  If you operate in an area where extreme heat or extreme cold occur, some sort of power source like a generator may need to be a part of your kit.

Keep your vital docs safe

Keeping all of your business documents secure should start with determining what documents are actually vital.  Vital documents may include any information necessary to recreate a business’s legal and financial status. It may also include documents necessary to preserve the rights of key stakeholders that include employees, customers, investors and owners. In today’s digital world, many of these documents are stored electronically. You still need to be prepared for if you have to go without power for an extended time. If you have no access to the internet or cell service, there needs to be a place for essential information to be kept.  You should have a process for who knows where this information is and how they should respond when that information is needed.

What can a small business owner do once a disaster has struck?

Call your insurance agent

When you have a natural disaster occur in your area, it is a good idea to call you insurance agent. When a natural disaster does strike, it is a good idea to have a little patience with your insurance companies. That goes for your agent and your carrier.  Keep your cool if your agent tells you to contact the carrier. It is the job of the carrier to handles the claim, not your agent. It is a good idea to keep your agent in the loop throughout the process. This is because, if your carrier does not live up to their responsibilities the agent can negotiate on your behalf. This is also something they can use on your behalf the next time you look for a workers compensation insurance quote. It is much easier for them to do this if they know about the situation as it evolves.

Communicate with your staff, vendors and customers.

Whatever type of communication plan you have in place, now is the time to execute it. You need to let staff know the status of the business and when or if you are planning to open up for business again. There needs to be some way for you to get in contact with vendors who may be expecting product or services from you. They may be expecting to deliver products and services to you and need to know when it is okay to do this after the disaster. You need to have a plan in place for how you plan to communicate to your customers what has happened and what they can expect in relation to your business interactions with them.

Execute a Business Continuity Plan

If you are a company that interacts with customers on a regional, national or international level; you need to be prepared for business to keep on churning when a disaster hits your area. Your communication plan should aide in notifying vendors and customers, what has happened and what they can expect from you and your business. A business continuity plan can make an immense difference in getting your business back to work and keeping customers happy when you are dealing with a difficult situation surrounding a natural disaster. You may need to speak with your legal representatives to determine if you need to put language in to your contracts about expectations during a natural disaster.

Mitchell Sharp is a Marketing Associate for Workers Compensation Mitchell has extensive expertise in workers’ compensation and cyber liability insurance. He has a passion for using his knowledge of commercial insurance and digital marketing to benefit the small business community. @WorkCompShop