With 30 named storms, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was one of the most active and costliest on record. The 2021 Hurricane season starts on June 1 but it’s never too early to prepare. Damage from a hurricane can be costly for small businesses and can pose hazards for you and your employees. Fortunately, there are ways that you can fortify your business against a hurricane to minimize losses and reduce risks for workers.
SBA offers a guide to help you consider how a hurricane might impact your operations and determine how you can prepare before one ever strikes. Below are a few key takeaways to help you get started.
Ways for Small Businesses to Prepare Before A Hurricane
Some of the most important steps you can take to prepare for a hurricane occur before a storm forms. These steps include:
* Putting a system in place to back up critical business data. Your data should be backed up regularly and should be accessible off-site, making cloud data solutions ideal options.
* Ensuring your insurance includes relevant protections for hurricanes. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), standard insurance policies do not cover flooding, including storm surge flooding, but flood insurance is available for business owners through the National Flood Insurance Program .
* Developing an emergency communications plan. Make sure you have a plan in place for how you will communicate with key stakeholders – including employees, customers, and suppliers – during and after a hurricane. As a part of your plan, keep an up-to-date list of these stakeholders’ contact information accessible off-site.
* Making sure your disaster kit is fully stocked. In case you are ever on-site at your business during a weather disaster, you should have a disaster kit with critical supplies such as water, food, masks, a flashlight, a first aid kit, and more.
FEMA offers an assessment to help you identify safety and business continuity risks your specific business may face in the event of a hurricane, via their hurricane preparedness toolkit. The toolkit also walks you through how to address these risks.
How to Protect Your Business After a Storm is Announced
When the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center issues a watch or warning, start taking the following steps:
* Take precautions to ensure that items outdoors will not blow away or cause damage. Remove all loose debris and anchor or relocate all nonessential equipment to a safe indoor location.
* Install windstorm shutters or plywood over windows and doors. Doing so will help prevent interior damage to your building.
* Disconnect the main electrical feeds to the facility. This will help prevent a potential fire caused by short‐circuiting of damaged equipment. Similarly, shut off natural gas supply to minimize fire loss.
* Get ahead of post-storm recovery efforts. Have cash on hand for post-storm needs, such as buying food and supplies. Additionally, fill fuel tanks of generators, fire pumps, and all company‐owned vehicles.
If an official evacuation order is in place during a hurricane, no employees should stay behind. However, if you are on-site at your business during the storm, remain in a place that has been identified as safe from wind and flood.
Recovering Your Business After the Storm
Wait until the storm has passed and local officials declare your area safe before entering your business to secure the site and survey damage. Start any needed repairs as soon as possible to prevent further damage.
If your business is in a federally declared disaster area, you may qualify for SBA disaster assistance. Check here to see if a disaster has been declared in your area and apply for a disaster loan. SBA resource partners are available to help you apply for disaster loans and to walk you through the steps of rebuilding your business. You can get free preparedness advice and guidance on how to recover from a local resource partner here.
The SBA is committed to helping you overcome any obstacle. We are here to help you prepare your business for hurricanes and other disasters. Visit SBA.gov/Disaster to learn more.