Editor’s Note: While most Atlantic-based hurricanes happen in the month of September, smart entrepreneurs are always prepared. At this writing there are about six hurricanes brewing in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, one of which (Hurricane Florence) is of historic proportions.
Whether you are currently in the path of a hurricane (stay safe), or may be in the future, here’s a checklist of what you need to know.
By Kathy Simpson
Hurricanes can have severe impacts on small businesses in terms of physical damages or business disruptions—time is money. You can’t afford to spend days or even hours getting your business back up and running.
Business owners have many resources available to help them minimize the financial and operational impact of severe weather and to quickly and smoothly restore operations. A good way to ensure this is by having a hurricane checklist handy. (Print out a list of the key contacts and give it to key employees, so it’s at their fingertips if you lose power.)
Here’s a checklist of places to turn for help during or after a severe weather event:
9-1-1. If anyone at your business is seriously injured or endangered due to weather, call emergency 911 immediately. However, do not call 9-1-1 for non-life-threatening emergencies such as power outages.
Your power company. Your computers, phones and other key equipment may not work if your power is out. Calling your electric company and other utilities promptly after severe weather may help you get power restored faster. (This is why it’s key to store your info—and backup—in the cloud, so you can access it from a safer, remote location.)
Your insurance company. Call your insurance agent or your insurer’s toll-free number to report any damage, lost income or business disruption caused by weather. Your insurer can provide valuable information about your commercial property coverage, walk you through key steps in the insurance claims process and direct you to other valuable resources in your area. It’s important to collect detailed records of your damage and post-storm expenses to make the insurance claims process as efficient as possible. (Before an event strikes, make sure you have adequate business insurance, so you’re not surprised after the fact.)
Key employees, vendors, customers and business partners. Reaching certain key people after a storm can be critical to your business recovery. For example, you may need to update information on your website through your web hosting company, or provide an update to your most important clients. Make sure these key people’s phone numbers, email addresses and other contact information are on your weather contact list, in case they’re needed.
U.S. Small Business Administration’s Disaster Loan Program. The SBA provides physical disaster loans of up to $2 million to repair damaged or destroyed business property, equipment, inventory and other uninsured losses after severe storms or other disasters. The SBA also offers loans to cover working capital expenses, such as rent, that can’t be paid due to a disaster. Both types of loans carry 4-percent interest rates and terms of up to 30 years. Businesses interested in applying for SBA loans should visit the SBA Disaster Loan Program web site or call its customer service line at 1-800-659-2955.
Federal Emergency Management Agency. In cases of particularly widespread and severe damage, the federal government will provide grants and other relief to affected businesses through FEMA. If this happens, businesses can apply for federal-aid grants by calling FEMA at 1-800-621-3362 or visiting DisasterAssistance.gov.