Hurricane Sandy was a monumental, hopefully once in a lifetime, storm. As the hurricane approached the East Coast many people frantically prepared to keep their families safe and supplies stocked. There was a run on the stores as people purchased enough food to last for a week, water to drink and gas to run generators and cars. Preparing for the storm consumed most of the weekend as people looked to see what Hurricane Sandy would do.
As a business owner the challenge is twofold: caring for your family and caring for your business. It is Wednesday and here in Maryland I still do not have power. As someone who is self employed that means I do not have access to the power needed to run my laptop, internet access to email clients and employees, or a charged phone to get on scheduled conference calls. For women that are self employed storms and other natural disasters can create more than a hiccup as deadlines get missed and the needs of clients go unaddressed. While Hurricane Sandy is not likely to repeat itself in the near future winter storms are on the way throughout the country so learning how to prepare your business for a natural disaster or severe storm can help make sure you company does not go down when the lights do.
Here are some tips I have learned from having a business in Hurricane Sandy:
- Purchase a generator. Even if your area of the country does not loose power frequently you never know when a fluke storm, earthquake, or freezing weather will cause power outages. In order to be prepared under any circumstance purchase a generator and do it before storm warnings appear. In Maryland stores were sold out once the news hit so there were not enough machines to go around.
- Stock up on gas. Store gas cans in the garage to run your generators and fill up your car incase a storm hits that is so bad gas stations run out of fuel, a common occurrence during Hurricane Sandy.
- Remote Assistant. Consider hiring a remote assistant that can answer emails and phone calls in the event that your area of the country is dealing with a disaster. There are many outsourcing companies that allow you to hire a virtual assistant and pay them only for the hours you need every month. Assign them tasks now when you are away on vacation or in traveling so that in the event they have to cover you or your staff for a period of time – they are prepared and familiar with your company.
- Communicate. It is important to communicate with your staff and clients the expectation in the event of a storm or natural disaster. For example: will you open the office immediately or give everyone a day off to determine the damage? How will that be communicated with your employees? As an employer you do not want to risk people getting in an unnecessary accident due to driving in unsafe conditions.
- Supplies. Stock up on supplies at the office so you have plenty of water, blankets, candles, matches, and flashlights in the event a storm hits you by surprise and you or your staff are stuck on location.
If you have a retail store or office that clients frequent it is also important to make sure that before you open your doors your location is secure and safe. Power lines that are down in the parking lot, electricity that is in and out, broken windows from a storm, or standing water can all expose you to premise liability and lawsuits. Attorney David Resnick in New York is advising people to be careful before frequenting a business to make sure there is no risk of down electrical wires or standing water. As a business owner it is better to wait and open a day later than put your clients and employees at risk.
For those in the East Coast recovering from Hurricane Sandy I wish you the best. Alas, since I learned these tips only after the storm, I am sitting in a library trying to work while waiting for power to return at my home and office. I know that I will be hiring a virtual assistant this week to make sure that on the next winter storm I have someone to cover me that is not located in the same geographical area, and impacted by the same bad weather patterns. Arizona perhaps?