What Hurricane Irma has Taught Us about Disaster Management for Businesses

Small, independent businesses are usually the worst affected by a natural disaster. They lack the resources to cope with extended interruptions to their business and as many as 25% of small businesses don’t even have a contingency plan in place.

The Impact of Hurricane Irma

The impact of Hurricane Irma was severe. More than 70 people died and the US economy is already counting the cost as Goldman Sachs slashed its US GDP growth forecast. With Hurricane Irma hitting the US, hot on the heels of Hurricane Harvey, millions of small businesses will be struggling for quite some time.

Many businesses that were directly in the path of the hurricane experienced severe flooding, structural damage, and power outages. Even those that didn’t take a direct hit from the hurricane still had to deal with mandatory evacuations, loss of power, and loss of revenue.

Emergency Loans

The Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program is offering short-term bridging loans to Florida businesses affected by Hurricane Irma, but loans can’t make up for lost revenue and are only intended as a short-term measure.

Other funding is available from the federal government. Businesses affected by the hurricane can apply for damage loans and economic loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration. If your business is eligible for a damage loan to help pay for new equipment or fix the physical damage, you must apply before November 9.

Businesses will also be eligible to file for an extension on their tax return. The Inland Revenue Service is sympathetic to businesses caught up in the hurricane and has extended deadlines for tax returns and payments.

Prepare for Disaster

What Hurricane Irma has taught us, however, is that it is critical to prepare for what might happen rather than stick our head in the sand and hope for the best. Hurricanes and other natural disasters are a fact of life. Hurricanes affect the Caribbean and southern US states every year, so nobody can claim to be surprised when Hurricane Irma tracked across the Atlantic shortly after Hurricane Harvey blasted Houston in Texas.

Since we can’t prevent natural disasters, our only alternative is to mitigate the damage with a comprehensive risk management plan.

  • Look at your risks and devise strategies for dealing with them.
  • Have a disaster management plan in place to help you cope during and in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.
  • Assign key persons essential tasks. For example, decide who is in charge of a cleanup operation. If necessary, invest in equipment from PumpBiz.com to help you clean up after flooding.
  • Make sure you have enough insurance coverage or you could end up with a nasty shock when you put in a claim for damages and loss of revenue.
  • Have a contingency plan so the business can continue to operate in a different location.
  • Look at your supply chain to see if you can still run the business if the supply chain is disrupted.

Being prepared is essential if you are at risk from a natural disaster. Your business can and will recover, but only if you put a solid plan in place.