In addition to tragic human suffering, hurricanes pose a real threat to the economy. Unless business owners know what to do to return to normalcy, residents may not feel the storm’s true impact until months later, as they face still-closed businesses and unexpected price inflation. Mental health professionals also recommend a quick reopening of businesses to bring a sense of normalcy to affected areas. Businesses can help by being prepared for emergencies, and returning to “business as normal” as quickly as possible.
Most business owners in hurricane-prone areas are aware of basic steps that should be taken before a hurricane, such as maintaining a preparedness plan, backing up computer files, and keeping a store of emergency materials. Some even develop plans for contacting employees. However, hurricanes are nothing if not surprising, and owners often return to offices to find a soggy, muddy mess. To keep the business flow as continuous as possible, managers need to know what to do just after the storm. By following the steps below, you can return to normal operations in no time… perhaps even quickly enough to beat out your competitors and make a neat profit.
Step One: Hire a disaster recovery service
It may seem extravagant to hire a disaster recovery service, especially when little damage appears on the surface. Can’t you just dive in and clean it up yourself? But before you charge blindly into the mucky fray, consider that only professionals with a complete understanding of the damage hurricanes inflict can accurately determine necessary repairs. Such disaster services experts will be able to anticipate and prevent potential problems, while allowing you access to crucial company documents.
Document recovery is a true challenge to returning to work, partially because document restoration is time-consuming and difficult for individual owners to organize. Timing is critical in document recovery, especially when mold is involved. Disaster recovery specialists report that mold appears in unventilated areas within 48 hours, regardless of weather conditions. Typical hurricane conditions, such as high humidity and high temperatures, only serve to encourage mold growth.
Disaster recovery professionals use highly specialized processes to return documents to a usable state. Some services use a desiccant air dry distribution system that allows for quick and reliable document access during and after restoration.
After consulting with your disaster recovery service, owners may be able to reduce humidity by increasing air circulation. When possible, some business owners have even convinced their landlords to keep the air conditioner running non-stop. Fans, dehumidifiers, and dryers can aid in getting as much air moving through your space as possible. Bottom line: as celerity is often the deciding factor in saving a business, savvy business owners have their disaster recovery service provider on speed dial, to be contacted as soon as the safety of employees has been investigated and confirmed.
Step Two: Equipment Repair and Data Recovery
Again, it’s probably best to consult the experts on post-storm repairs. If your on-staff IT guru’s uncanny understanding of damaged equipment restoration has you feeling ready to tackle restoration yourself, keep the following tips in mind:
- Remove your hard drives and contact a company that specializes in hard and soft disc recovery. If there is any chance they came in contact with water, do NOT turn on computers you hope to recover. This can cause electrical shorting and destroy memory.
- Steel machines should be dried by a service professional as soon as possible, to reduce rust.
- Copy machines should also be serviced—wet, lumpy toner will need to be carefully removed.
- Preparation is the name of the game in data recovery, since data loss can be crippling to a business. Of companies that had a major loss of computerized data, 43% never reopen, 51% close within two years, and only 6% will survive long-term.*
Step Three: Clean up and Secure a Cash Flow
Before inviting employees back to work, the office will need to be thoroughly cleared of debris and muck. As you (or your vendor) clean, remember that many items may be recycled rather than simply dumped. Check with your local authorities to determine proper disposal procedures, and which items may be reused. Green shrubbery may be recycled into wood chips, for instance. As explained above, moisture is your enemy; dry out your business and property as much as possible to prevent the continued growth of micro-organisms.
Finally, as you face the inevitable expenses incurred in post-hurricane cleanup, remember that the federal government often provides aid, especially to small businesses. Do your homework; be aware of the procedures and requirements for receiving such aid.
These steps, along with strong doses of humor and patience, will help put your business back on its feet quickly.