A natural disaster has hit your business. Now what?
Natural disasters take an enormous toll on businesses and entire communities. Be safe as you move toward recovery.
Different disasters bring various short- and long-term dangers, giving you a lot to consider in order to protect your business. This article will break down steps to take after some of the most common natural disasters. Keep in mind that these are general tips, as every circumstance is unique. Always contact a local authority if you don’t feel safe.
In the aftermath of any disaster, it’s important to stay calm and make practical decisions. Think about:
- Personal safety. Make sure that you and your employees are safe before moving on to concerns about your business.
- Communication. Provide updates to staff about the state of the business and any next steps you have planned. Remember that your employees may be dealing with personal challenges of their own in the wake of the disaster.
- Documentation. Take stock of the damages your business has suffered. Be sure to include detailed photographs and a written list for insurance purposes.
If your area has been struck by a hurricane, the high winds and flooding may have downed power lines, dismantled buildings and compromised vital infrastructure such as roadways and bridges. Take action — and care — to protect yourself, your employees and your business. Watch out for the following dangers:
- Electric shock. Avoid handling electrical equipment that’s wet or while you’re standing in water. If safe to do so, turn off electrical sources at the main breaker or fuse box.
- Contaminated water. Don’t stand or wade in floodwaters, which may contain harmful chemicals, debris, waste and wildlife.
- Hidden property damage. Because structural damage may not be obvious, use caution when accessing your business. Contact a civil or structural engineer to inspect your building if there is a potential of such damage.
Flowing water is extremely dangerous, and floodwaters can contain harmful pathogens. If your business has been affected by a flood, be mindful of these risks:
- Mold. Look for the sight or smell of mold growth from stagnant water in your building. If you need to be there, wear protective clothing such as boots, work gloves and a face covering.
- Wildlife. Be aware that wildlife may have been displaced during the flood, and some, such as snakes, may be present in buildings or standing water. If you encounter a wild animal, do not attempt to handle it. Contact your local wildlife control agency or other emergency services provider to have them safely remove the animal.
- Carbon monoxide. Take caution when using a portable generator as it produces carbon monoxide, an odorless, poisonous gas. Only use a generator outside and at least 20 feet away from buildings.
After a tornado, some dangers are less obvious than others. The powerful winds can displace objects hundreds of feet. As you begin the cleanup and recovery process, look for:
- Live wires. Avoid downed utility poles and power lines because they may still be carrying electricity. Do not attempt to clear wiring or other electrical equipment. Always contact your public utility, or at least an electrician, for help and advice on how to proceed.
- Gas leaks. Listen for blowing or hissing noises when accessing your business, as these may be indicators of a gas leak. You may also smell gas fumes. If you suspect there is a leak, open a window and exit the building. If you can safely do so, turn off the gas using the outside valve and notify the utility company.
- Building collapse. Be mindful when accessing your business because structural damage may not be visible at first glance. Avoid moving large objects or piles of debris without first ensuring that they are not supporting a section of the building’s structural integrity.
Take precautions before returning to an area affected by wildfires. Potential dangers could still be lurking, including the following:
- Compromised equipment and inventory. Inspect your business equipment as best as you can before handling it, in case of unseen damage caused by fire. Smoke contamination is another threat, especially to agricultural businesses where food or plants can be tainted.
- Secondary fires. Be careful when entering an area affected by wildfires, as their direction and speed can change without warning. Check local reports for updated information about fires in your area.
- Heat pockets. Do not handle objects that appear burnt or are still hot. Collections of hot ash, charred trees and other smoldering debris may contain excessive heat and live embers that can burn you or even spark another fire.
- Poor air quality. Avoid being outdoors for long periods of time. Wear protective gear such as a mask or respirator in case of poisonous gases and other air pollutants, which can linger for weeks. To minimize the amount of dust particles, you can wet the debris prior to handling.
We’re here to help
When disaster strikes, you may have more questions than answers. You’re not alone. Our Disaster Response Series was designed to help you plan your next step (and the one after that) and provide many of the tips and resources you may need — right at your fingertips.
- Supply chain disruptions
- Pricing adjustments
- Closing your business
- Reopening your business
For more ways to help your business survive during challenging times, speak with a Chase business banker.