When you are finally allowed into the area that used to be your business, the first thing that strikes you is the absolute devastation. Where there used to be sinks are only PVC pipes sticking up from the concrete. What used to be your roof is laying across most of your work and service areas. There are no windows with glass, and quite often, no walls at all. Your PCs are lying in the debris, as are all of your file cabinets. Water runs out of any remaining desk drawers. While you are standing in shock, trying to comprehend the fact that you are now out of business, your lead foreman shuffles through the debris that used to be inventory and says, "I gotta have a pay advance, I need money right now!!!"
You have to put it all back together and make it a working, profitable business again. The storm could have been a hurricane. It could have been a tornado. It doesn't matter.
It doesn't happen here? I lived in Kendale Lakes in southwest Miami when Andrew went through. We were fortunate, only losing part of my roof and having my 120 mph rated garage door blow in. My daughter lived in Cutler Ridge, right in the path of the most severe weather of the storm. She and her husband lost everything. All of our local businesses for many, many miles around, looked exactly as I described.
What do you do? Will you be out of business? Unfortunately for many, the answer is yes.
The lack of planning will be more devastating than the storm. Inadequate insurance coverage is the most obvious. Questions will arise that you didn't bother with before. If you lease your space, you rely on the landlord to rebuild the physical structure, but when? After years of litigation?
It doesn't happen here? Our son-in-law's parents, who also had their home destroyed by Andrew, moved to Kissimmee to escape the coastal threats of hurricanes. The deadliest tornadoes in Florida history ripped through their new neighborhood several years later, reminding everyone that it can happen anywhere, at any time.
Talk to your insurance agent about business continuity insurance. Attend the hurricane preparedness seminars and lectures. Preparedness is the first step. The Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce developed a Workbook titled "Developing a Disaster Plan for Business Survival" It is a great first step for those small business owners that have no idea what to do.
Some consider disaster planning a waste of time. Some even consider it morbid. The truth is Disaster Planning and Business Recovery planning are absolutely essential!
George Mindling © 1999