Tornado occurred in Joplin, Missouri in 2011 has destroyed thousands of buildings, including Nate Stokes’ company. Stokes is the owner of a car company in Joplin. His office was destroyed in pieces when a twister hit but fortunately, there was no one in the office building when the natural disaster occurred.
After a few days, Stokes was informed that his accountant passed away during the tornado. He also learned that 3 of 50 employees quitting their jobs because they have lost their homes and needed to focus on rebuilding their lives. Meanwhile, another three employees were temporarily unable to work and several clients whose homes were destroyed were no longer able to collaborate with Stokes.
About a month after the tornado, Stokes set up a new office located 12 miles away in Carthage, Missouri. But he was unable to replace all his lost equipment and cars until he received insurance money six months later. It took about a year for Stokes to finally run the business properly. He was still based in Carthage but now has a satellite building in Joplin.
Stokes’ story is one of many businesses that try to rebuild their business back to life after a deadly natural disaster. Fortunately, Stokes had insurance to recover his business, while there are many businesses out there that do not have any insurance or disaster preparation which makes businesses unable to recover from a natural disaster.
“Success of a business lies in its management level of handling every problem, including natural disaster.”
Whether it is a tornado, hurricane, tsunami, earthquake, mudslide or any other natural disasters, your carefully laid business plans and projections can be thrown into disarray. Learning from Stokes, supply chains might not be able to operate normally, employees might be unable to work again, facilities or equipment could be damaged, and clients might be unable to do business with you again. Hence, companies must be prepared when such an incident happens and find a way out of it. Needless to say, planning for natural disasters should be just as high of a priority for your business as having a proactive growth plan for the future.
Natural disaster preparation and continuity planning are also vital to the company’s bottom line because it can be overwhelming for businesses when choosing not to prepare for a disaster until it is too late. As a consequence, FEMA reported that 40 percent of small businesses never reopen after a disaster and another 25 percent, that does reopen, fail within a year. Business owners should also understand its importance as no location is 100 percent safe from natural disasters.
Before it is too late, you should have forward-thinking as well as pre-preparation planning. The plan would determine whether your business will survive or tumble down after a natural disaster. In your approach to build “robust disaster plan”, do include the following points.
One of the critical aspects of business survival is the company’s data. Hence make sure that you cover every document, including important documents and records needed to reference in the event of a disaster. Possibly, keep the record onsite and offsite.
With technology today, you can also have a data backup which can be recovered when needed. Your business documents should include deeds, leases, insurance papers, certificates/licenses, banking records, and hard copy or business continuity plan.
After you get the document ready, store them somewhere safe. And now, it is time to do a natural disaster simulation around your work environment. First, you need to identify a natural disaster that has the potential to occur in your area. Then, look at the priorities of which disaster that often happened in your area. After that, identify and minimise the risk. The simulation is useful when the disaster happened during the workweek.
For example, earthquake shaking can move almost everything. Imagine if an earthquake happened, what would be thrown around? Learn how to secure items to prevent damage or injuries to employees. A simulation like dropping to the ground, covering the head and holding onto something would also be needed to minimise injury. Alternatively, you can invite a professional disaster trainer to help secure the area and how employees should behave whenever a natural disaster occurs.
Once life safety is being addressed, it is time to start recovery activities to resume operations. Conduct an assessment for operational issues and then repair the damage. Use your plan to guide your actions and restore priority operations first.
You also need to maintain communication with your employees and key contacts, especially if disaster happened during the weekend or when employees are on leave. Then, documents any damages to determine business priorities.