Credit: New York Magazine
By some estimates, Hurricane Sandy has wreaked $50 billion in damages, with some calling it the second most expensive storm in U.S. history. With the arrival of this “Frankenstorm,” areas of New York City that normally do not experience flooding were suddenly faced with rising waters. Buildings collapsed or were simply demolished. Electricity and natural gas service were out for extended periods of time, and subways were rendered inoperable for days (some at this point have still not resumed service). Gasoline supply became limited due to increased driving and generator usage.
Tens of thousands of people whose homes were destroyed by the storm are in need of housing help. To contribute to relief and rebuilding efforts, please contact the following organizations:
United Way Hurricane Sandy Recovery Fund
The aftermath of this storm has been a wake-up call for all of us to heed warnings seriously. Here are some steps to prepare yourself and your business for the next big one:
Are you or in a flood zone?
You should know the answer to this question, even without a hurricane in sight. If your home or business is in an area that typically is not subject to flooding, it may still be in a flood zone. To find out, type in your address using FEMA’s Map Service Center.
If you are indeed in a flood zone, regardless of the risk level, you should consider purchasing flood insurance. Many people believe that their homeowners or renter’s insurance will cover their contents in a flood. Most insurance policies, however, do not cover damages due to flooding. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and can provide information about options for commercial and/or residential flood insurance.
Move to higher ground.
One of the best actions you can take to protect your business inventory, equipment, and personal belongings (especially if you are located in a flood zone) is to move your items to higher ground and disconnect electrical devices. Anything located in basements should be moved to a higher floor. Even with sump pumps located in your basement, torrential rainfall and/or sewage backups could overload them and leave you with massive flooding. In general, the rule of thumb is to keep items 12 inches (31 centimeters) above the flood elevation for your location. In addition, it is wise to have electronic copies of important documentation, and that they are backed up at an alternate location.
Prepare your building.
You can start preparing your to-be affected building by making sure that all unsecured items outside are moved inside. This will help reduce damage to your building and those surrounding you. If you will be affected by extremely high winds, you may want to consider boarding up windows to prevent debris from entering your home/office.
Gather emergency supplies and make your evacuation plans.
Credit: Office of Emergency Management, Philadelphia
In preparation for any natural disaster, keep emergency supplies handy. You should have at least 3 days of non-perishable food and water (1 gallon per person per day), flashlights, battery operated radio, batteries, first aid supplies, and cash (if electricity is out, cash machines are unavailable). Keep these supplies readily available in a backpack (Go-Bag) as well, which should be stored in a safe and accessible place ready in case of evacuation.
Even if you are not subject to mandatory evacuation, you should still have a game plan on how to escape your area in case it becomes necessary. Make arrangements with a friend or relative, or know where you evacuation center is, and how to get to these places in an emergency situation Public transport, roads may not be accessible, and gasoline may be in short supply during this time, so having an alternate route/method of transport is key.
Test your recovery strategy.
In terms of your business, you should develop a recovery strategy and plan, that is a plan on how to resume your business after it has been disrupted by an incident. Will you have employees work from a secondary location or at home? Are you able to transfer any work to another location/branch? It is important to test your strategy at least once a year to ensure it will work for your business. Also, it provides employees with necessary training on implementing the recovery strategy. Prior to the hurricane, the strategy should be tested if it has not been recently. This will help ensure a smoother recovery of your business after the hurricane strikes. Also, make sure you have an employee contact list handy. This will help you in facilitating speedy communications with your employees.
Perform a damage assessment and take action.
After the hurricane has passed, and you have accounted for family, friends, and employees, it is time to perform a damage assessment. Be sure to take pictures of damaged property, record any damage related costs, and assess and record the value of damaged property. These will aid you when you contact your insurance company to report your losses. Once your damage assessment is complete, contact your insurance company with your assessment.
If the damage to your primary location of your business is extensive, and you will not be able to operate business as usual in that location, it is time to invoke the recovery strategy you have developed. Communication with your employees is key to ensuring a smooth recovery. Utilize your employee contact list to contact your employees on the next steps in recovering your business, including your decision to invoke your recovery strategy.
Remember, your safety and the safety of others is the main priority during any sort of disaster. By taking concrete steps to prepare in advance of an crisis, you’ll be in a better position to recover faster – both personally and professionally.
By Michael Longo
Business Continuity Consultant, Lootok