One in every four businesses will be faced with some type of situation that threatens its livelihood. Having a natural disaster plan in place can help.

The second half-year of 2017 has seen more than its fair share of natural disasters.

For instance, on August 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey hit the coast of Texas as a category four hurricane, where it stayed stalled for a number of days, dropping buckets of rain on the southernmost areas before moving on to the coast of Louisiana and up deeper into the U.S.

By the time it dispersed, it caused an estimated $200 billion in damages.

Just a few days later, Hurricane Irma, one of the five strongest hurricanes in history as far as winds are concerned, made her way to the Florida Keys, making landfall on September 10. Like Harvey, Irma also worked her way northward, going up the western coast of Florida before impacting Alabama, Georgia, and North and South Carolina. Irma’s total damages are expected to be somewhere near $100 billion once all is said and done.

There were also the Napa Valley wildfires that occurred in Northern California beginning October 8. This collection of numerous fires engulfed entire towns in the wake of the 56,556 total acres that were destroyed before being 100 percent contained. The economic impact of these fires?

Somewhere around $114 billion from just the wineries, and that doesn’t take into consideration all of the other businesses that were either partially damaged or entirely lost as well.

Natural Disasters are Increasing

The scary news is that “the rate of disasters is increasing by 40 percent a year,” says Jennifer Elder, C.P.A., C.G.M.A., C.M.A., C.I.A., C.F.F., a consultant and speaker who works with businesses to take them “from surviving to thriving.” Part of this process involves helping them better prepare for and respond to natural disasters if and when they strike.

What’s your chance of being victimized by a disaster? According to Elder, if you take into consideration man-made disasters such as cyber-crime, which she warns is increasing over time, “there is at least a 25 percent chance of being hit with a major disaster.”

This means that one in every four businesses will be faced with some type of situation that potentially threatens its livelihood, if not force it to close its doors for good.

Impact of Disasters on Businesses

Though most business owners consider the negative impact businesses can sustain by way of damage to their property and equipment, that isn’t the only cost you should be worried about should a disaster strike, says Elder.

Even if you’re not hit directly, you also face a possible loss of revenue with cancellations by customers have been impacted, as well as distracted employees, she says. This means that you may feel the effects even if you’re not in the disaster’s direct line of path.

Based on this, the one question that you need to answer right now is: What if your massage therapy business was hit today by a disaster or in the vicinity of where a disaster strikes? Are you prepared? More specifically, can you not only survive, but also thrive beyond it?

Identify Your Natural Disaster Risk

If your answer to these questions is no, Elder says that one of the most important things you can do right this moment is “identify what disasters you are most at risk for.” This gives you an idea of what types of plans you need, and it changes depending on where your business is located.

For example, according to Alert Systems Group, a company that helps create technology designed to provide early warnings for some the most dangerous disasters, the areas at highest risk of tornados include parts of Oklahoma, Missouri, and Iowa.

Thus, if your massage therapy business is in one of these locations, then you’ll want to prepare for a potential tornado that places you in its path.

On the other hand, areas that carry the highest risk for earthquakes include coastal areas of California, Oregon, and Washington, as well as some parts of Hawaii, Alaska, Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas.

Knowing this information up front helps you better plan for these disasters well enough in advance.

Mitigate and Minimize Your Exposure

The second thing Elder suggests that small businesses do by way of natural disaster prevention is to “identify what you can do to mitigate and minimize your exposure.” This means taking the time to create a plan that puts you in the best position possible should a disaster strike.

One way to do this is with the help of the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Hazard Mitigation Guide. This guide contains helpful tips for preparing for some of the most common natural disasters—floods, earthquakes, droughts, wildfires, tornadoes and power outages—to better protect your business should any of these occur.

It also provides links to other resources to help you create a more thorough prevention plan, as well as offering checklists so you can easily keep track of where you are in your preparations. For instance, in the action list for extreme cold and winter storms, you can check off once you’ve conducted trainings on emergency response with all of your personnel, or completed a thorough hazard vulnerability analysis.

You should also compile a disaster response kit, says Elder. Regardless of which type of natural disaster you’re at most risk of enduring, a few of the items that she recommends it contain include:

  • Flashlights
  • Spare batteries
  • Spare batteries for cell phones
  • Pen and paper
  • Water bottles
  • Food that can be eaten from a can
  • Contact information for key people and vendors (such as your friends, family, insurance company, bank, and IT)

Natural Disaster Plan and Response

Because pre-planning isn’t enough, Elder also suggests that you “put an emergency plan in place so you’ll know what to do in case of a disaster.” This would be a step-by-step action plan that you create to help you cover all of your bases in the time of an emergency or crisis, from how you’ll respond to how you’ll look after your clients’ safety as well.

You also want to make sure your plan addresses how you’ll get your products should your vendors be unable to ship to you or how you’ll work with your utility companies if they can’t get immediately up and running.

If you’re not totally sure what your plan should include, you may want to ask your insurance carrier for tips.

“A disaster plan is something you hope you never have to use, so many people don’t like to plan,” says Elder, “but better to have a plan and not need it. Just like insurance coverage!”

About the Author

Christina DeBusk is a freelance writer dedicated to providing readers relevant, research-backed content related to health and wellness, personal development, safety, and small business ownership.


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