Preparing Your Business for the Next Big Hurricane

Although Hurricane Irene wasn’t as ferocious as many people anticipated, the storm still caused plenty of damage to homes and businesses all over the East Coast. If you didn’t do enough to prepare your business ahead of time, you may be dealing with the repercussions now. Here are a few ways to prevent problems the next time a major weather event is forecast in your area.

Warn clients and vendors that you may be temporarily unavailable. If it seems likely that there’ll be a power outage in your area, talk with customers and partners (and anyone else you work with regularly) to push back any major deadlines and come up with a Plan B. If you frequently work with people based in other states, they may be unaware of your situation and get frustrated if they don’t hear from you. Don’t forget to update voice mail greetings and out-of-office email responders so people know you’re offline.

Back up your important data. In the event of an extended power outage, you’ll want to be able to access important digital files from alternate locations. Before the bad weather hits, back up crucial data and client projects using Google Docs or another online storage system.

Liquidate inventory that won’t keep. If you own a retail store that sells food or other perishable items, offer discounts on selected items a day or two before the big storm is forecast. Even if your profit margin is lower than you’d like, at least the products won’t go to waste if you need to close for a few days.

Get your records and insurance in order. When there’s a chance your shop and its contents could suffer damages, it’s essential to take complete inventory of your equipment and products. Call your insurance agent to make sure that any record of the business’s value is up-to-date and that you have as much coverage as you’d need in the off-chance that the storm’s worst-case scenario materializes.

Weatherproof your business. When nature does its worst, there’s not much you can do — but it’s worthwhile to put forth your best effort anyway. Place towels and buckets in areas where leaks are likely, and remove any expensive electrical equipment that could be susceptible to flooding. Make sure that you have a good security system in place, too, to prevent looting (though that may not do any good in a widespread power outage).

Protect your important papers. Insurance forms, tax returns, and any other crucial documentation should be kept safe from water and fire. If your place of business isn’t your residence, you may want to take the safe home with you to ensure that you’ll have any details you need for reporting damages.

About Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins is a principal at the content marketing agency Eucalypt Media. She's written about business, marketing, and entrepreneurship for publications including BNET,,, and owns and operates the positive news site Gimundo. Follow her on Twitter at @kathrynhawkins.
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Chris Halcon
Chris Halcon

Kathryn, your point about backing up data is very important for small businesses. A survey conducted by Symantec, where I work, showed that half of small businesses don’t have a disaster preparedness plan in place and 44% said they would lose at least 40% of their data in the event of a disaster. The cost of not being prepared when disaster strikes is too high to ignore. Your readers may find useful our recommendations to ensure small businesses’ IT systems are prepared: Halcon Symantec