Disaster Recovery Starts with Disaster Preparedness

By John Medina
Vice President of Business, Insurance, and Investment Services
First Commerce Credit Union

North Florida and South Georgia recently experienced the impact that a Category 1 hurricane can have on business interruption and recovery.  Hurricane Hermine impacted many business systems and processes, communications (with employees, contractors/vendors, employees, etc.), ability to respond to client needs, and managing efforts to restore a business owner’s household while at the same time restoring business operations – and in some cases, damage to property.  I would submit that any disaster recovery plan that has been truly thought-out starts with making proper preparations to minimize the impact of a disruption, while maximizing the capacity to restore operations as quickly as possible after the event.

Here are some helpful reminders for business owners:

  • Technology – Many small businesses are reliant upon technology to maintain operations.  Take time to review and test backup systems, establish service level agreements with vendors, and document emergency contact information for vendors before the disaster event.  I’m aware of a number of small business owners in our area who were very disappointed and distressed to realize their technology vendors/suppliers could not deliver on their agreements.  In many cases, these systems were not fully tested in advance. Also be sure your employees have practiced how to work “offline” if your systems are down.
  • Cash – On Friday, September 2 (day 1 after Hermine), many/most retail businesses were either closed, opened late or had limited hours.  Most had very limited credit card or debit card capabilities.  As such, cash transactions became a high priority.  The time to secure larger-than-normal cash balances is before the disaster event.  Even as financial institutions were being restored after Hermine, most had limitations on cash withdrawals.
  • Employee Communications – Confirm emergency contact information for all employees and pre-post disaster protocols before the disaster event.  Will you contact employees via text, email, cell, home, etc.?  If one (or more) communication channel is down, do you have an alternate way to reach them? Will you have a dedicated voicemail or established 1-800 voicemail that you can use to keep employees updated on the status of operations, work schedules and resources available to assist them?  Is everyone aware of that number or your primary method of communicating?
  • Client Communications – Consider sending pre-disaster communications (emails, texts, or calls) to inform clients of your operational plans and key contact information for your business.  Will your phone system, website, and/or social media keep clients updated on the status of operations and resources available to assist them?
  • Facilities/Equipment – Safeguard facilities and equipment to minimize damage from the disaster event.  If generators and equipment are dependent on fuel/diesel, do you have ample supplies?  Equipment, generators, etc., should be full of fuel before the event, with plans in place to refuel as needed.
  • Banking and Insurance – Invest time to review your business policies (coverages, deductibles, exclusions, etc.) and your financial services resources before the event.  Realize that most damage caused by named storms will have higher deductibles and the time to establish an advance on a business line of credit is before the event. While Hermine created short-term interruptions for many small businesses, you should be prepared for long-term disruptions (think Andrew, Katrina, etc.).  Business Continuity Insurance can be an important way to protect your business from operating losses or expenses associated with a longer-term recovery.

Below are some resources that can help your business prepare and recover from disasters or disruptions to your business.

https://www.sba.gov/managing-business/running-business/emergency-preparedness/disaster-planning

https://www.osha.gov/dte/grant_materials/fy07/sh-16618-07/sm_business_emergency_checklist.pdf

https://www.score.org/content/small-business-disaster-preparedness-resources

http://www.preparemybusiness.org/planning

At First Commerce, we are here to empower you as a resource for you and your business. We know small businesses are the backbone of our community, which is why we focus on helping you save time & money so you can stay focused on what you do best. We believe in the Power of Yes, keeping our decisions at home and finding solutions that work, from financing to insurance to financial advisory services and beyond. That’s why we were proud to be named the Top Credit Union of the Year for 2014 by the Small Business Administration (SBA) North Florida District Office.

Find out how our full range of Local Strong business services can help power your business by contacting our Business Services team at (850) 410-3559 or by visiting FirstCommerceCU.org/Business.