9 Steps to Prepare your Business for a Natural Disaster
When Cyclone Debbie hit in March this year it left devastation in its wake. Businesses in the Townsville, Rockhampton, Mackay, and Bundaberg regions were the hardest hit, and flooding was seen all the way south to the border and into northern New South Wales.
It is impossible to predict extreme weather or eliminate the potential damages, but there are several procedures you can establish to ensure your business is well prepared and able to recover as quickly as possible.
1. Make sure you have business insurance
It may seem obvious, but business insurance will ensure you can recoup some of the costs of damage and lost trading time.
You never know when a cyclone will hit, so take the time now to make sure your business insurance is up to date and provides cover for natural disasters.
2. Take a complete inventory of your business
This will help with your insurance both before and after a cyclone. Taking an inventory before updating your insurance will help you to get the right level of cover.
It will also help you to assess damages after a disaster. Recording your assets can help you report what you have lost; speeding up the claims process.
3. Protect essential business records
Paper records are especially vulnerable to cyclone and flooding damage, and you can't afford to lose them. If your records are paper-based, we recommend shipping them to an offsite location where they'll be safer If they're digital make sure everything is backed up on a cloud service, or off-site external hard-drives, so you can still access your records even if your business has incurred damages.
4. Protect your employees
No matter how valuable your physical assets are, the most important thing to protect is the people working for your business. Ensure you have a plan in place for protecting and/or evacuating employees in the event of a disaster, and make sure it's well known among all staff.
A review of this plan in the lead up to a forecast cyclone can provide an extra level of preparedness.
5. Develop a comprehensive written plan
Following up from the previous point, create a comprehensive plan to manage a disaster, and make sure it is written down for future reference. In addition to employees' safety, this plan should detail every stage of dealing with a cyclone.
Start with pre-season preparations such as cleaning drains and gutters, then lay out plans for the specific lead up to a storm, emergency procedures during the storm, and short term recovery.
For more detail on what to include in your plan, the Queensland government has partnered with RACQ to create a fact sheet on preparing your business. In addition, the US government set up the website Ready.gov that gives more information on creating an emergency response plan and preparing for a cyclone.
6. Contact your supply chain before and during recovery
A business cannot function alone, but it can be easy to forget your network of contacts in the lead up to and recovery from a natural disaster. To ensure a good ongoing relationship with your partners, make sure you contact your supply-chain before a storm and during the recovery to provide updates on operations and closures.
7. Know your government assistance
It's important to remember in the lead-up-to, and wake of a disaster that there is a wealth of assistance on offer from the State and the Federal Government.
The Department of Industry, Innovation, and Science provides low-interest loans up to $250,000 for small businesses in disaster affected regions.
The Business Queensland website has a wealth of information on preparing for natural disasters and the assistance available to businesses in the aftermath. The QLD government also created the Self Recovery App for immediate, mobile access to disaster resources.
It is also possible that governments will offer additional assistance in the wake of a natural disaster. In the months after Cyclone Debbie, the state-government established a Small Business Recovery Grant for businesses severely affected.
We at CCIQ recommend keeping up-to-date with government assistance packages to make sure you can claim everything your business is entitled to.
8. Review plans annually
As the world continues to change and hopefully become better prepared and able to deal with cyclones it's important to keep your business's plans up to date.
An annual review of your emergency plans will ensure your business is always best prepared to deal with a natural disaster.
9. Expect the unexpected
With everything in life, but especially extreme weather, it is often impossible to predict future events. It is important that you remain flexible and ready to deal with things you may not have planned for.
The quarterly Pulse survey is now live. This year's hot topic is Cyclone Debbie, to understand how this natural disaster affected Queensland Businesses.