Welcome to the third installment in our series on National Preparedness Month (recognized every September):
- In our first article, we explored what steps individuals, families, and communities could take to protect themselves from disasters. This post covers everything from emergency toolkits to step-by-step action plans.
- In our second post, we looked at strategies businesses could use to protect their operations and employees from disasters such as cyberattacks, wildfires, and earthquakes. This article also includes detailed emergency preparedness plans for small business owners.
Reading these resources can help you plan for the worst so that neither natural nor man-made disasters leave your business in ruins.
Even if you survive the initial shock, the road to recovery is often long, expensive, and confusing. In fact, an estimated 25% businesses permanently shut down in the aftermath of a disaster.
We don’t want this to happen to you, which is why this third installment focuses on resources to help you get back on your feet as quickly as possible.
1. Apply for Financial Assistance
There exist a host of nationwide relief programs designed to help small businesses with post-disaster recovery efforts. Below are some of the most popular financial assistance initiatives at the federal level:
- The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers low-interest loans to help repair or replace damaged assets such as machinery and equipment.
- The SBA also provides up to $2 million per business through its Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers various types of financial assistance (including disaster grants) that can help cover the cost of rebuilding damaged business infrastructure.
- The U.S. Department of Labor maintains a Disaster Unemployment Assistance program for those who have been displaced from their jobs.
If any of your employees have also been affected, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers various forms of mortgage repayment relief.
2. Create a Disaster Cleanup Plan
Because every type of emergency is unique, it’s hard to know what kind of recovery assistance you’ll need until tragedy strikes. In the wake of many disasters, there will often be molds, toxins, or rubble — all of which can pose serious safety risks to you and your team members.
Ideally, you should wait for first responders to intervene before handling anything that might be potentially hazardous. In the event that immediate emergency intervention is necessary, here are some free resources that can keep you and your employees safe:
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regularly publishes best practices to reduce your risk exposure when cleaning up potentially harmful materials.
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a slightly different set of guidelines designed to help you safely clean up disaster areas.
- The Environmental Protection Agency’s National Response Center has a free hotline that you should call to report any chemical spills or other hazardous materials.
It’s important to digest these resources before disaster strikes. You won’t have time to review these guides when there’s an actual emergency.
3. Build Resilience Into Your Operations
Most disaster recovery advice is reactive, meaning that:
- If there’s an earthquake — call this phone number.
- If you need financial assistance — visit this website.
Still, there are proactive steps you can take to shorten the recovery time for your small business.
For example, moving more of your operations into the cloud allows you to resume work faster than if all your assets are stored locally on servers or in file cabinets. This is especially true if many of your employees already telecommute. As long as they have a secure Internet connection, they can continue working from anywhere.
How far you can take this migration is ultimately industry-specific. For example, brick-and-mortar retailers don’t have much wiggle room when it comes to cloud-based operations or telecommuting.
Yet, going paperless is something that any business can do. Just imagine how much more quickly you can rebound if your rental agreements, insurance policies, employee records, and corporate charters are all digitized and stored on cloud-based servers.
Small Business Disaster Assistance Is About Community Rebuilding
As a small business owner, you already have plenty of incentive to get your operations back up and running as quickly as possible.
That said, the above tips aren’t just-self-serving suggestions to protect your company.
True disaster recovery happens at the societal level, with healthy businesses helping to stimulate economic activity within their respective communities. In other words, everyone is better off if your small business can recover as quickly as possible.
Stay tuned for the final installment in this month-long series in disaster preparedness. We’ll be diving into what steps you can take to shore up your cybersecurity defenses.