Business Owners: What to Do After Disaster Strikes

Now that you've learned what to do prior to a natural disaster or other emergency in my previous article, it is time to prepare for what you would do during an actual emergency. The first step you will want to take is to keep track of any natural disaster by following weather reports and receiving live, updated information.

Monitoring Impending Weather Events

Keep track of any approaching storms or natural disasters. You can use a variety of apps to do this from the NOAA weather alerts and local station (NBC/other) apps to Google’s live tracking.

You will want to move your family, loved ones and business team away from the area as best as possible. This is the time that you will rely upon the supplies you have saved and possibly use backup generators. Run through any emergency drills ahead of time with your team so you are ready to go before a hurricane, earthquake, storm or other event occurs. You can also take proactive measures to close your business early and operate from another location and check in with your team ahead of time.

After the natural disaster has passed through your area and it is safe to go outside, these are the next steps to take. (For related reading, see: The Financial Effects of a Natural Disaster.)

After a Natural Disaster

  1. Take photos of your home and business - After you experience a major disaster, it is advisable to take photos and video of the damage as soon as it is possible to go home. Do not move anything and do not start repairs yet. Be sure to file an insurance claim, get a claim number and reach an agreement with your insurance company before you start repairs. Make sure your insurance company considers the regional cost for repairs as it varies from state to state so you do not have to pay more out of pocket. Only cash your insurance check after you have agreed on the amount due. Document any loss or damage you see. You may need to take some temporary steps like boarding up walls, covering roofs with tarps or other short-term measures to prevent further damage, but first be sure to take photos and videos and speak to your insurance company.
  2. Check in with your employees - Find out how your employees are doing. Some of them may have additional issues to deal with. Be considerate and patient.
  3. Restore critical business functions - As soon as you can, restore critical functions. The planning you did ahead of time will help you now.
  4. Call your creditors - Many companies ranging from banks to mortgage lenders and credit card companies will offer a longer grace period for payments after a natural disaster.
  5. Check disaster status - You may be eligible for help through the government’s disaster relief efforts at https://www.disasterassistance.gov. FEMA typically offers help to individuals and not businesses and is usually just for essential survival needs.
  6. Request an SBA disaster loan - You may be eligible for up to $2 million in disaster loans through the SBA at favorable terms that you can use to repair physical property or meet financial obligations that you could not because of the natural disaster. This loan can be used to cover losses that were not included in your insurance coverage.
  7. Get extended tax filing date - When your business lies within an area that is declared a disaster by the federal government, you can receive more time to file and pay your taxes as well as other tax provisions for up to five years.

Creating an emergency plan is similar to having an estate plan in place that helps the family and loved ones after a person has passed away. It gives you a roadmap of what to do immediately and helps you think ahead.

Depending upon where you live, you may face different natural disasters. Whether your business survives and thrives after a natural disaster depends upon the planning that you do ahead of a disaster and what you do after a disaster strikes. With good planning, you can keep your home, loved ones and business safe and out of harm’s way.

(For more from this author, see: The Importance of Creating a Will.)