There is no doubt that companies across the country have been hit hard by COVID-19. According to ZenBusiness, 75% of small businesses were forced to lay off at least one employee due to the pandemic, exacerbating other setbacks due to economic uncertainty, including falling sales, lack of products / services, etc.
To make these problems worse, businesses in our coastal state recovering from a one-off public health crisis must also prepare for the hurricane season that is now upon us.
May 2021 is the sixth warmest May worldwide since records began. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2021 cracked the top 10 warmest years of all time. Warmer weather means higher hurricane risk as the Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1st to November 30th. In fact, forecasters predict a 60 percent chance of above-average hurricane activity in 2021.
Unfortunately, recent data suggests that 75% of businesses without a continuity plan will fail within three years of a natural disaster. The longer your company is down, the more likely it is that you will permanently lose customers to your competitors. Hence, it is important to be prepared for all sorts of severe setbacks from these monstrous storms – from power outages to floods to property damage or lost working hours.
Nobody wants to consider these calamities, but they remain possible. With the help of forward planning, however, companies will be in an advantageous position and âsurviveâ a natural disaster. The New Jersey Business Action Center (NJBAC), part of the New Jersey Department of State, has nine recommended strategies to help small businesses survive:
1. Store important documents in the cloud, not on your computer: Most organizations keep records and files on-site that are essential for normal operations. To reduce your vulnerability, determine which records, files, and materials are most important and back them up. This can include income tax forms, QuickBooks files, customer contact lists, strategy documents, and passwords. From there, save those files to the cloud using an affordable service like Dropbox and DocHub or Google Docs that is free to use. This way, you can access your files from anywhere.
2. Keep office property secure: lift computers above flood level and move them away from large windows; Move heavy and fragile items to low shelves and secure equipment that could move or fall during a severe storm. Also, hire a cybersecurity professional to make sure your systems are safe and virus-free. Protect your most important documents, credit card numbers, email correspondence and more by hiring an expert to set up a secure system early on.
3. Implement a recovery plan: Make a clear plan if you or your business partners are incapacitated. List the types of emergencies that have occurred or may arise in the community and adjust your plan accordingly. Make sure that trustworthy employees have access to passwords, keys, alarm codes, telephone routing and other important elements in the event of a disaster. Take into account any financial obligations you may have during the interruption, such as: B. Payroll and Debt Service, and make sure there is a system in place to pay bills electronically. Set up a social media presence for your company (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter) and use social media tools to communicate with your customers about the status of your company.
4. Keep your insurance up to date: check your insurance coverage with an agent or your insurance center; check the status of your business interruption insurance in a targeted manner. If a disaster strikes, you can file a business interruption insurance application that lists all of the loss of income. For insurance and tax reasons, keep written and photographic inventories of all important materials and equipment and keep them in a safe if possible.
5. Consider installing an emergency power generator: Power outages are common during disasters and can last for days. This means that even companies that are not badly damaged can suffer losses due to business interruptions or the loss of perishable stocks. You can reduce these losses and speed up the recovery process by installing a backup generator in advance.
6. Identify a backup location: If your main office location is destroyed or severely damaged, you should designate a backup destination where employees can gather and visit customers. This will help create a sense of normalcy and ensure customers that everything is fine. Make sure your organization has the right equipment, including a working WiFi router, if the workplace is down due to a storm. Teleworking tools should be available when employees unexpectedly have to leave their office.
7. Have Disaster Supplies Ready: Sometimes the simplest contingency plans are the most effective. Always have extra batteries ready in the event of a power failure and critical electronics need to be left on. Important files should have a written backup in a safe place like a safe or metal filing cabinet. Have an emergency supply kit ready, which includes a battery-operated radio for accessing National Weather Service information, a battery-operated electronic device charger, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, flashlights, extra batteries, waterproof plastic bags, and more.
8. Have Property Inspected: It is important to have your property inspected for damage to ensure the safety of all staff upon return. Restore electricity, gas, telephone, and water, and prevent additional damage by doing repairs as needed to stabilize your office or facility. For cleaning up after the storm, make sure you are using safe, appropriate cleaning products / services, that all appropriate safety equipment is used, and rent equipment or hire contractors if the work is too big or complicated for a small team .
9. Ensure printed / digital resources are accessible: Find up-to-date, reliable information from public health authorities, emergency management and / or other sources and make it available for staff / public inspection. Make sure your organization has access to inventory lists, including computer hardware and software.
Natural disasters cannot be averted, but as a business owner you can take steps to minimize disruption and loss so you can get back to normal operations as soon as possible after the storm has subsided. An effective disaster preparedness plan ensures that both you and your employees are safe in any unforeseen circumstances. This has been true of previous storms such as Hurricane Sandy and more recently Isaias.
Keep in mind that the NJBAC has several useful resources for small business owners to get assistance across the state. To learn more, visit https://www.nj.gov/state/bac/bac.shtml or call 1800-JERSEY-7.
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