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Each year, hurricanes cause millions of dollars of damage in the United States. In 2017, for example, Hurricane Irma is estimated to have cost $2.8 million in retail damages alone. Companies that are hit by a hurricane often need to close their physical locations while they recover, clean up, and sometimes rebuild from scratch. For businesses that aren’t properly prepared for the potential consequences of big storms and natural disasters, reopening can be difficult, or even impossible.

Some stores take months, or even years, to fully recover. Only 60% of businesses manage to reopen at all. So what can your company do to maximize your chances of recovery after a disaster?

Understand Potential For Damage

The first step in terms of surviving a disaster is understanding just how much damage it can do. Even if your business exists outside of traditional flood and hurricane disaster areas, be aware of what’s happening.

In 2011, for example, it was New England that took the biggest beating from Hurricane Irene, not the traditional southeastern impact zones. Few homes, especially in smaller communities, were prepared to withstand the kinds of flood waters that rose.

Be Properly Insured

It’s a good idea for any business to carry various types of insurance, such as property insurance, liability insurance, and workers compensation insurance. But beyond that, businesses in areas that are at risk for natural disasters – floods, tornados, hurricanes, wildfires, or ice storms, for example – should go through their insurance policies with their agent to make sure they are properly covered.

A typical property insurance policy, for example, might not cover flooding; that may require an additional rider. Companies may flinch at the cost of proper and full insurance coverage, but it’s better to pay that monthly premium than to be left with no assistance – and often a lot of debt – if a business is destroyed in a natural disaster.

Have a Disaster Recovery Plan

Be prepared is a good motto for a reason; while it’s not possible to prepare for everything, having a good idea of what you might be facing – and how you’ll respond to it – helps businesses thrive instead of falter when they run into trouble. Traditional business plans lay out operating guidelines, marketing statements, customer service strategies, and more.

A disaster recovery plan might include how to communicate with customers and employees, what insurance policies are in place to help with recovery, and logistics such as how to reopen as quickly as possible. This could mean setting up a temporary base of operations at an evacuation area, or communicating with vendors and suppliers, for example.

Keep Offsite Backups

As cloud computing becomes more and more widespread, there’s less and less excuse for having the only copies of anything exist on site. Files must be digitized, and even if there are onsite copies maintained, micro and small businesses can often maintain their information through basic cloud computing. Enterprises that need more storage or more complicated storage can often contract with a company that manages regular backups to maintain data integrity.

One of the many benefits of cloud computing ties into disaster recovery. With cloud computing, you can use almost any laptop to log into your online software and resume business operations. You don’t have to try to find software keys or recover information from damaged hard drives.

One factor companies may forget, however, is that they should also maintain copies of their insurance policies in a safe location off site. Having easy access to all your policy details will make claims filing much easier.

Keep Communication Open

Whether you are a primarily online company that needs to keep customers up to date or a physical location that needs to update employees and vendors about what’s happening, know how you’re going to communicate, and then make sure it happens. If your employees are going to be out of work, whether that’s for a short period of time or a longer one, be sure to communicate that to them so they can plan appropriately.

It’s also important that businesses know what their obligations are to their employees. Full time employees who are unable to work through no fault of their own may end up being eligible for some kind of unemployment pay. Know who they should call to find out if they are eligible, and what kind of benefit they may be able to claim.

Businesses can survive disasters; after all, nearly two-thirds of companies come through natural disasters like hurricanes and continue to operate. But recovering from the kinds of losses caused by extreme weather events can take time. Planning ahead can minimize that time and help companies thrive, even as they rebuild.

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