For many business owners, the hardest part starts now. A natural disaster impacts even those who have not experienced property damage. It’s important to keep our spirits high and meet this challenge with determination and resilience. Remember, how your business responds and how the public perceives that response can have a significant and lasting impact.
Where does recovery begin? According to an article by Entrepreneur.com, here are some tips on what you need to know about preparing, coping and recovering from natural disasters.
- Contact your insurer immediately. Inform your insurance company before cleaning up any damage so you can get an accurate estimate. After a disaster, many insurers have a quick-response team that will come out to survey the situation. If your business cleanup includes removal of items such as water-damaged merchandise, flooring or insulation, keep it all. The damaged materials are all evidence of the impact of the disaster on your business.
- Seek assistance. The Small Business Administration may be able to provide some financial help. Through the agency's Office of Disaster Assistance, any business, regardless of size, that is located in a declared disaster area can apply for low-rate, long-term loans to help recover from physical damage. Even if your property was not damaged, you can apply for a working capital loan from the SBA to relieve the economic injury caused by the disaster.
Eligible businesses may borrow up to $2 million for up to 30 years to repair and replace property, machinery and inventory at a 4 percent interest rate. For uninsured or under-insured losses, the loan may be increased by as much as 20 percent of the total amount of disaster damage to protect the property against future disasters of the same type.
The SBA can also help you repair your home – renters and homeowners can borrow up to $40,000 also at 4 percent for up to 30 years to repair or replace personal property damaged or destroyed in a disaster and up to $200,000 for home repairs. More information about these loans is available on the SBA website.
- Stay on top of communication. Once the worst is over, let your customers and clients know what’s happening. Update the home page of your company’s website to let customers know if you’re ordering, shipping or inventory is affected, if or when you expect to be open for business and also consider sending a message of well wishes and concern with a status update on your company’s Facebook or Twitter pages.
Be honest about what is happening, how long you except it to be before you are running at full capacity and give a detailed operating plan for your recovery period. People will realize that yours is a company that knows how to deal with problems and you will have gained their trust.
- Don’t count on FEMA for quick help. If your business is in a federally declared disaster area, federal aid will be available, but it can move slowly, especially when many claims are being filed. It might provide homeowners with temporary shelter and eventual money to rebuild. But for a business owner, your private insurance or an SBA loan will be your best chance at receiving money fast.
- Create a backup plan. Your company should have a business continuity plan in place already, but if not, now is a good time to get ready for the next time a disaster of any kind affects your business. A business continuity plan outlines how your company will respond to a disaster, including such crucial questions as: How will we keep filling and tracking orders? If vendors aren't operating, do we have a backup? What if employees can't make it to work? To get started, or update your current plan, check out this Business Continuity template. (assuming this template this is a link)
If you haven’t already, put a data recovery plan in place for your most important files. Research data recovery vendors and cloud services while the topic is fresh on your mind. You’ll be prepared the next time disaster strikes.