Natural disasters can cause plenty of headaches for small business owners. That’s why it’s important to have a good plan in place in case of natural disasters, including floods. While flooding cannot be prevented, you can take precautions to protect your business from some of the harmful effects.
SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors, provides a few key tips for flood preparation:
- Access and understand your area’s flood maps – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides these maps that identify areas of flood hazards and flood risks. They are revised periodically to reflect the changing topography of the area so business owners should regularly check the FEMA website for updates.
- Flood insurance – Understand the terms of the contract and what is actually covered. If you’re in an area that can be affected by floods, it’s best to purchase a package that covers both the building and its contents, despite the higher premiums.
- Purchase flood boards – These moisture-resistant PVC boards can be placed on doors and windows. They can be fitted easily, as well as be reused.
- Non-return valves – These are installed in a property’s manhole and prevents the backflow of sewage during flooding. Preventing the backflow of sewage helps reduce the chances of people coming into contact with contaminated water on the business’ property.
- Raise electrical sockets – Flooding increases the risk of electrical shock. Raising electrical sockets and wires reduces the risk of contact with floodwaters.
- Create a flood continuity plan – This is a proactive response to the potential impact of flooding on a business.
- Train employees – Employees should know the flood warning alarm, what to do when the flood warning alarm goes off, the dangers of flooding, and how to safely evacuate the building.
Janice Jucker of Three Brothers Bakery in Houston, an area that was deeply affected by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, advises other small business owners to have a plan in place to stay prepared and ready for any imminent natural disaster threat. Her bakery has overcome four floods, a hurricane, and a fire. Determination and preparation have made each successive disaster less terrifying to overcome.
- The first thing to do before any natural disaster occurs is to read your insurance policy. “It’s better than a sleeping pill. But you have to read it from cover-to-cover, and make sure it has what you need.”
- Make sure you have a good agent that can get you a low deductible plan. “Our agent took care of us. We had an upgraded policy where we can get a mobile home office paid for by insurance. It paid all of our lost revenue for a year, and paid our employees for a year. We’d be out of business without a good agent.”
- Know a good restoration company in the area. “You don’t want to use one that comes in from out of town, you want to use someone local.”
- Put everything you can in the cloud. “Make sure everything is backed up, just in case.”
- Have a list of employees and contact info. “When a disaster hits, you need to contact them and make sure they’re ok and see if they need anything.”
- Have money to pay employees. “Make sure you have money in the bank to pay your employees, because they’ll need money.”
- Once a disaster strikes, look to apply for small business recovery disaster loans. Almost $1 million in small business disaster recovery loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) allowed Three Brothers Bakery to re-open less than three weeks following Hurricane Harvey.
- Call your lawmakers. Get them involved so that you can get your disaster loan money faster and get your business up and running as quickly as possible.
- Keep in mind that disaster loans can’t be used to pay your employees. Janice also points out that FEMA doesn’t help small businesses, only individuals. “Don’t call FEMA, just call the SBA.”
- Encourage people to shop disaster zones. Houston is a financially devastated area, and recovery generally takes several years. “For example, people who are shopping for a holiday gift, find a retailer in a disaster zone because they need that revenue.”