As a business owner, there are few experiences scarier than having your business or property damaged by a tornado or hurricane. Natural disasters can come out of nowhere and can cost you time, money, customers and stress. But the more prepared you are to respond, the fewer losses you will incur.
Wondering what to do after a natural disaster? This step-by-step list will guide you through everything from assessing damage to securing repairs and getting back to work. As tornado and hurricane seasons begin, keep this list handy and follow these nine steps should disaster strike.
- Notify necessary contacts. If your building is damaged or operations are stopped, you need to contact key people. This includes, but is not limited to, emergency services, utilities, your insurance agent, customers or contractors you work with, employees, tenants, repair companies and other outlets relevant to your work. To save time and stress in the aftermath of a natural disaster, create this list before you need it. You may not think as clearly in the aftermath of the injury, so having this contact list ready ensures that everyone who needs to know is aware.
- Assess injuries and make plans. Do a full inspection of your space, but do not enter if there is damage to the physical structure as the roofing may be unstable and hazards may be exposed. Once the property has been deemed safe to enter, assess the property, building and key equipment that was affected. Take pictures and detailed notes of the damage and plan what to fix. Having photo evidence and notes to look back on will be helpful during both repairs and claims reporting.
- Look for receipts and warranties. We encourage businesses and homeowners to keep receipts for big-ticket equipment and technology. Look these up now and review the warranty information.
- Schedule maintenance and repairs. Once additional hazards such as downed pipes or standing water have been cleared, schedule repairs with reputable companies. Employ trained personnel with appropriate personal protective equipment to clean up toxic chemicals, hazardous waste, or mold. Check contractor reviews before hiring them and get an estimate of their realistic timeline and pricing. Having this estimated closing date will help you start planning your reopening.
- Keep track of costs. Again, save receipts, invoices and photos of repairs so your insurance agent can refer to them…and your business can too. There will be a lot of money and contracts exchanged in the repair process. Store them in a secure, centralized location.
- Ensuring future security. Things like fire alarms, sprinklers, carbon monoxide detectors or smoke detectors may have been damaged in the natural disaster. Get your security up and running again with new devices. Carry out a full, professional inspection of gas and water lines too.
- Evaluate what worked and what didn’t. While you’re at it, assess what could have been done differently. For example, if you store important documents on the floor or in containers that are not waterproof, consider moving them offsite, in the cloud, or to higher ground. Learning from this event and making changes will make you prepared for safety and better prepared in the future.
- Communicate every step of the way. Your customers will have questions and your team will be eager to get back to work. That’s why it’s important to communicate through each step. Please announce these new dates when the timelines change. Share how you work to avoid disrupted service and make things right for customers in the chaos. Update your business listings on search engines and social media to reflect the disruption and when you return to business as usual. Those around you will be more understanding and accommodating the more transparent you are.
- Talk to your agent. Your local, independent agent will be an important part of your recovery and protection in the future. At Frankenmuth Insurance, our handpicked agents are part of your team. We’ll work with you to explain coverage, answer questions, file claims, and adjust your policy for more peace of mind moving forward.
Now that you know what to do after a natural disaster, take a step back. Consider how you can be proactive now to prevent similar injuries in the future. Read our blog: Hurricane Preparedness for Business: 8 Steps to Protect Your Business and download our free disaster preparedness guide.