Hurricane Sandy, a post-tropical cyclone at landfall, hit the eastern seaboard with staggering force on October 29, 2012. While it affected 24 states, the damage was most profound in New York and New Jersey. The numbers for this “Frankenstorm” clearly tell the story of its strength:
- 8.5 million customers lost power
- More than 200 people died
- 305,000 housing units were damaged or destroyed in New York
- 72,000 New Jersey buildings were damaged
- $2.2 billion in disaster loans approved for NY, NJ, CT and RI
In addition to the tragic loss of human life and physical destruction, when a major storm strikes, there are massive financial and economic impacts that must be dealt with. Whether due to power loss, physical damage, or the inability to ship/receive products, companies big and small will lose money every day they are unable to conduct business as usual. While debilitating storms like Sandy and the recent EF5 tornado that devastated Moore, Oklahoma in May, 2013 are rare, what lessons can your business learn from them? Let’s look at some ways to help protect your organization, get emergency relief if needed, and keep your business from going under when water and winds rise.
Manual Checks and Other Alternative Solutions to Automated Systems
The price tag of Hurricane Sandy is estimated at $71 billion dollars. As a result, the Small Business Administration continues to play an instrumental role in recovery. Recently posted on their website, the SBA has approved more than 34,000 disaster loan applications, totaling $2.2 billion. In terms of SBA disaster lending, this makes Hurricane Sandy the third largest natural disaster in U.S. history. SBA’s financial support has allowed businesses and homeowners the ability to reopen and rebuild. An additional $19 million in grants will be issued to SBA resource partners for small business training services and expanded counseling.
In addition to obtaining proper business insurance, consider some key strategies in the possible event of a natural disaster. Taken from “Hurricane Sandy: 8 Small Business Lessons Learned,” Forbes contributor Dan Simon shared a few tips that personally helped his company during Hurricane Sandy, summarized below:
- Rerouted the company email system to mirror emails hosted on their London server. All staff members were given instructions on accessing.
- Circulated a contact sheet of everyone’s personal phone numbers and emails prior to the storm for check-in purposes.
- Invested significantly into a skilled IT professional that effectively contributed to contingency planning, locating critical files, and monitoring the servers to pinpoint exactly when power was restored.
Currently, Simon says his company is considering more cloud computing capabilities, giving employees access to vital server documents, even if systems are down due to a storm.
Additionally, all businesses should take the time to determine what specific needs they have. This may include portable hard drives with access to QuickBooks files, offsite laptops, and products such as manual business checks. While many businesses today use computer checks, paired with accounting software programs, these may not always be immediately accessible in the event of a massive storm like Andrew, Katrina, or Sandy. Leading providers such as Checksforless.com provide a comprehensive selection of banking supplies, including manual checks, and rubber stamps that can be used without power or batteries from any location. With manual checks, envelopes, and rubber stamps on hand, you can purchase emergency supplies, pay vendors trained to mobilize in storm events to protect your inventory or equipment, and continue to make critical payables even if you are offline.
Remember, financial bookkeeping changes if your systems are down. Be sure to carefully track all your transactions and keep all relevant receipts that can be logged into your online programs once power is restored. The possibility of losing an automated system serves as a reminder that paper trails are still important. Whether it’s a storm or a tax audit, every business should always have paper documentation for the most important financial milestones.
Planning Ahead for Natural Disasters
Effective game plans for natural disasters begin well before an imminent threat. Put alternative plans into place now. Consider email routing possibilities, cloud access, offline products, and other options that will keep your business running even if systems are down. Emergency drills are also smart. Whatever you decide, make sure all of your employees understand the course of action if an unplanned natural disaster were to happen. This will help ensure that everyone stays safe and is on board for contingency plans if and when the unthinkable happens.
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