How to Keep Your Small Business Going During (and After) a Natural Disaster

By Melissa Duko, August 01, 2018

Last year it was Hurricane Harvey, this year it’s volcanic eruptions in Hawaii. No matter where you live, there’s the possibility for a natural disaster. And a catastrophic natural event can leave your business reeling. According to FEMA, 40 to 60% of small businesses never reopen after a disaster occurs.

When blue skies turn dark, is your company prepared to carry on? Here are four tips to keep your business going during (and after) a disaster.

1. Create a Contingency Plan

In the heat of the moment, it will be difficult to put together a contingency plan. It’s quite possible that you’ll be putting out fires literally and figuratively.

The Office Fire

Source: GIPHY

Before disaster strikes, set aside some time to plan how you’ll keep your business operating. When drafting your contingency plan, be sure to address these crucial areas:

Communicating With Staff and Clients. Make it a point to keep everyone in the loop on a consistent basis. Communicate with your employees whether it’s through an emergency notification system via text messaging software, email, or a tool like Slack.

Related Post: How to Enhance Your Brand Using Social Media

For clients (and employees), utilize social media to relay important company-related updates. And consider programming chatbots to address any customer service issues while you and your staff are unavailable.

Keeping Day-to-Day Operations Going. Develop protocol for how employees will continue to work. Depending on the severity of the disaster, this may include selecting a satellite office location, or using VPN remote access.

If the person who does a particular job is unreachable, consider cross-training employees and assigning backup roles, too.

Dwight

Source: GIPHY

Staying on Top of Accounting. Establish an emergency accounting and payroll procedure. Employees, vendors, and bills still need to be paid during and after the disaster. Which brings us to our next step...

2. Plan Ahead for Financial Headaches

Keeping your business afloat financially during a disaster can be difficult. According to a Federal Reserve Bank survey of FEMA-designated disaster zip codes, 61% of businesses suffered revenue losses up to $25,000, and 35% suffered losses of more than $25,000.

Related Post: 7 Financial Apps to Help With Your Small Business

Bankruptcy

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Plan ahead by setting aside money for emergency repairs, payroll, and other expenses. Also explore federal disaster loans or business lines of credit. Knowing your options beforehand will help make the process easier should you need to apply. (Fingers-crossed that you don’t.)  

3. Run Practice Drills 

Once you’ve solidified your contingency plan, put it in action. Pick a date, make up a disaster scenario, and try some practice runs. This will help you detect any potential flaws so they can be addressed.

Michael Scott

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Once you’ve worked out any kinks in your plan, don’t forget to review it every quarter. As business procedures and staff change, so will your contingency plan, too.

4. Back Up Everything

One last extremely important thing: make sure you’re backing up all critical software, applications, data, etc. Without these components, how will your business run? It won’t.

Jim

Source: GIPHY

Ideally, backups need to be done daily, or as frequently as possible. To be on the safe side, store data in multiple locations including an on-site server or hard drive, as well as an off-site server or cloud-based system. That way if a site is compromised, you still have options for data recovery.

For example, Ellicott City, Md. has experienced not one but two devastating floods. Imagine how many customer/vendor lists, contact info, contracts, inventory records, etc. have been lost if businesses didn’t back them up? Yikes.

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While we can’t prevent natural disasters, we can control how we respond to them. By being proactive and having a plan in place, hopefully the recovery will be a lot smoother for your business.

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Melissa Duko

Melissa Duko

Melissa Duko is the Senior Editor and Digital Specialist for eZanga and its ad fraud management platform, Anura. She brings to her role more than a decade of journalism and editing experience. A graduate of the University of Delaware, she holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, concentration business and technical writing, minor Art History. She also has a Master of Science in professional writing for the public and private sector from Towson University. She isn’t afraid to admit that her love for Starbucks is at gold member status. (Since 2011!) More Articles by Melissa Duko