Atlantic hurricane season 2019 season has arrived, and it looks like it should be a reasonably active time for those of us on the east coast. According to a weather research team at North Carolina State University, we will experience an average number of tropical storms this season.
Despite that, record-breaking temperatures in May meant that we had our first named tropical storm system on May 20th, before the beginning of hurricane season, which is typically defined as from June 1st to November 30th each year.
Why We’re Talking About Hurricane Season
You might be wondering why we’re discussing hurricane season when we typically share business and marketing info and form tips.
The truth is that hurricanes and tropical storms have the potential to impact a vast number of business owners in the United States. While large corporations have action plans that address hurricane season, small business owners often lack the pre-planning until a hurricane pops up on the map. Unfortunately, that is often too late.
Here are some surprising facts from the United States Census Bureau about doing business in the United States and how Atlantic hurricanes tropical storms can potentially harm our economy.
- 144.6 million Americans live and work in the Atlantic Hurricane Zones.
- This number equates to about 45% of the US Population, stretching from Maine to the Gulf Coast of TX.
- Atlantic coastline communities are growing in population; more businesses could be impacted in the future. Here’s a chart that illustrates the fast-growing areas.
Some of the cities that face the fury of tropical storms and hurricanes are:
- Portland, ME
- Boston, MA
- New York City
- Washington, DC
- Baltimore, MD
- Richmond, VA
- Raleigh, NC (the east coast’s high-tech corridor),
- Charleston, SC
- Atlanta, GA
- Miami, FL
- Tampa, FL
- New Orleans, LA
- Houston, TX
The disruption to business doesn’t necessarily end after the eye of the storm passes. In September of 2018, Hurricane Florence slammed ashore in North Carolina, leaving up to 35” of rain flooding coastal areas and affecting 84,446,793 Americans from Georgia to through New England.
Power outages, flooding, and downed trees interrupted business operations, and the force of the storm left businesses in the rubble.
9 Actionable Steps to Protect Your Business During Hurricane Season
The primary goal of hurricane preparation is always the preservation of life. We always hear about how to prepare our homes and families for tropical storms, but we receive far fewer tips on prepping our small businesses.
We are sharing tips to help prepare your business operations not necessarily the physical structure — you already know you should hang the plywood across your windows to prevent breakage and looting.
But, you might not know that your insurance company will stop writing policies once a storm heads your way.
1 - Begin Preparations Now
A hurricane brewing off the coast sends millions of business owners and homeowners into a tizzy of preparation. You’ll be competing with all those people for the materials, supplies, and services that you need.
Planning early for a hurricane equals less stress.
2 - Create a Hurricane Preparation Checklist
As you implement a storm preparedness plan, you’ll need to manage all the moving parts.
Create a Hurricane Preparation Checklist to stay on-task and organized as you put all the pieces into place.
While you might be tempted to jot these to-do items down on the back of an envelope in a rush to roll up your sleeves, it will serve you better to create a formal checklist in EmailMeForm where your data will be secure in the data manager.
And, you can fully tailor your checklist to meet the needs of your business and mark it as private and for internal use only.
3 - Protect Your Biggest Asset — Your Employees
During hurricane season, communicate your company’s plan with your employees. They should know:
- Building evacuation policies
- Inclimate weather procedures/building closures
- Local evacuation routes
Before a tropical storm moves in, send out an updated employee data form. This contact form will enable you to reach employees before, during, and after any emergency — weather-related or not.
Storing your employee data form in the EmailMeForm Data Manager minimizes your risks of losing this information during a storm.
Storing it on your computer’s hard drive exposes you not only to data breaches but also to lost info if a lightning strike zaps your building or the floodwaters rise.
If you decide to store this data in your cell phone in case you lose access to the internet, be sure to password protect your phone!
4 - Make Sure All Insurance Premiums Are Paid Up
Once a named storm is tracking towards you, your state’s insurance board may cease the underwriting of policies — including those that have lapsed. Be sure all your insurance policies premiums are paid, so your coverage doesn’t slip.
5 - Complete Physical Inventory Forms
If you haven’t done so as part of a yearly review, make an inventory form so you can document every one of your assets. Whether you have a home-based business or an enormous warehouse, you have assets.
Make a note of everything of value. Document your inventory-taking process with photographs and record serial numbers.
Creating an inventory form with EmailMeForm can help you access your asset list from a safe, remote location in the unlikely event that your building is damaged or inaccessible.
And, sensitive data is secured in our Vault and out of the hands of looters after the storm.
6 - Know Your Contractural Obligations
Working on a big contract or have a large order to fill? Review your commitments and keep your clients apprised of any changes to your availability. As storms near the coast, get those orders shipped or work out an alternate delivery date with your clients. Most will understand the gravity of the situation.
Here’s my personal story from last year.
As a freelance writer, I have weekly clients who rely on content from me. I live in a coastal area of North Carolina. Once I realized that Hurricane Florence had us in her sights, I reached out to each of my weekly clients by email and told them it was possible that I would be without power for the following week or so.
I completed my weekly tasks for that week ahead of the storm. For a couple of clients who had immediate needs, I worked ahead and created two weeks of content to ensure they were satisfied. All of my clients were very kind about the situation and were more concerned about my safety than their content needs — most told me to postpone my work until after the hurricane passed.
Obviously, my service-based business cannot begin to compare to the amount of action that must be taken by your production or retail environment. However, it underscores the need for crystal clear communications.
7 - Partner with Cloud-based Service Providers
Do you store data on your desktop computer or laptop? There are many valid reasons to begin moving all your documents to the cloud — including post-disaster recovery.
Once power is restored, you’ll be able to run payroll, pay vendors, collect orders, and communicate with the world outside the hurricane zone.
For example, EmailMeForm payment forms will still allow your website to collect payments on outstanding invoices even if you lose power. And, the credit card data is stored in the Vault, safe and sound until you can get back to work.
8 - Back up Your Data
Back up any data that is not cloud-based, such as important files on your hard drive. It seems like it should be a sensible and straightforward task, but it’s also easy to overlook while you’re making all these essential preparations.
9 - Set Up an Emergency Response Checklist
Should the worst happen, do you know how you will respond during the aftermath? Identity key employees to help you implement an emergency response plan.
Assign responsibilities to each member of the Emergency Response Team based on capabilities and create an Emergency Response Checklist so that each team member knows what you expect them to do if the worst happens.
The tasks you may recruit staff to assist with once they are safely able to do so (and provided they have power and internet) are:
- Contacting vendors and clients with updates
- Updating social media
- Checking in on employee safety
- Sending out a newsletter
- Updating your website
You’ll Feel Secure After You’ve Prepared for Atlantic Hurricane Season
While all of this preparation is challenging, you will feel more secure after you have prepared for the hurricane season.
Of course, protecting lives — both yours and those of your employees and family — will be your number one priority.
However, you have worked hard to build your small business. Knowing that a hurricane may destroy your physical space, but you’ve secured the heart and soul of your operations, will allow you to focus on staying safe.