With another two months remaining in Hurricane season, the risk of damage from a natural disaster remains strong. Already, Hurricane Dorian has decimated the Bahamas and caused untold financial damage along the eastern coast of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. For most businesses in the hurricane corridor this is a fact of life, and they are prepared when the inevitable disaster strikes, using the months leading up to hurricane season to work out emergency logistics.
However, severe weather is nothing if not unpredictable and even the best laid plans can go awry. The impact of a weather-related disaster can impose a financial burden that takes years to recover from, if the business can ever recover fully. In fact, according to FEMA, 40 percent of businesses permanently close after a disaster. Your organization should prepare for all weather-related possibilities (droughts, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes), fires, active shooter incidents and even cyberattacks.
Disaster takes on many forms, and all can cause business interruption, high claims and months of uncertainty. Fortunately, a mix of planning and new technology can help ease the pain of disasters, natural or otherwise.
The Time to Strategize is Now
Mother Nature is unforgiving and can often defy logic. Hurricanes divert at the last minute, hail storms and tornadoes appear out of what feels like nowhere and earthquakes give no warning. Even firestorms, slow though they may be, can change course and destroy homes that were once thought safe. The only way to manage the chaos of natural disasters is to craft an emergency strategy before they hit.
To do so, organize a group of employees from each business division that understands what to do when disaster strikes. This group will be jointly responsible for executing actionable items and communicating subsequent information to the rest of your staff. The U.S. Government’s disaster planning website, ready.gov, is an excellent place to start for toolkits that help organizations identify their risks, develop plans and take action when natural hazards strike, as well as simple checklists and planning tools.
Use Technology as Your Guide
Once your plan is in place, open communication across the business will help you weather the proverbial storm, mitigate risk and possibly save the lives of your employees. We recommend using the mobile app “In Case of Crisis”, which was developed by a strategic partner at our sister organization, Procor Solutions + Consulting. The app connects internal stakeholders to necessary parties during an emergency and helps facilitate additional communications.
Mobile disaster planning technology allows organizations to save critical documents, planning preparations and phone numbers on a network of external servers unlikely to go down during a natural disaster. Even if your business loses power, your phone will remain connected and can help guide you through what to do in the immediate aftermath. In the example of In Case of Crisis, the secure app houses pre-planned, step-by-step workflows needed to mitigate the effects of a disaster, with clear role-based views that allow for individualized tasks.
Technology also enables quick messaging and picture and video storage so that risk managers in an unaffected office can quickly coordinate with those in the middle of an emergency. This documentation also can jump-start the claims process faster, easily capturing disaster response expenses and related support.
Most Importantly, Stay Safe
Natural disasters kill hundreds of Americans each year. All businesses should prepare for crisis with the lives of their employees as their top priority. Exit signs should always be well marked. Any disaster planning should involve carefully thought out evacuation strategies as well as periodically scheduled drills ensuring employees know exactly where to be in case of a tornado, fire or earthquake.
When it comes to disasters, preparation and practice make perfect. Develop your emergency strategy, clearly communicate the responsibilities of all internal employees, and share plans with your insurance broker.
Interested in learning more about disaster planning and post-emergency claims management? Contact us today.