Monday, October 2, 2023
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4 Ways Small Businesses Can Prepare for Hurricane Season

Lawrence Hatch, First Horizon Bank Central Florida
Lawrence Hatch is the Central Florida market president for First Horizon Bank.

Hurricane season is the season of unpredictability, but an established emergency response ensures  small business owners a level of control. We may be in hurricane season now, but it’s not too late to  begin your preparations. If you are in an area frequented by storms, a plan can prevent financial loss,  facility damage and organizational shutdowns.

An emergency response plan catered to a hurricane considers everything that could go wrong if your  business is in an evacuation zone for a storm. Power outages, facility damage, supply chain shortage,  employee loss and lack of access to your finances are all possible occurrences and should be addressed  in your plan.

Every small business’s emergency response plan should include: 

  1. A business continuity plan – Maintaining operational services is the main goal for any small  business during a natural disaster. A business continuity plan establishes a process for  continuing operations and identifies a disaster-recovery team of employees that know your  business best. Those team members are assigned specific tasks and responsibilities to handle  before and when disaster strikes. This plan includes a business impact analysis identifying the  potential fiscal effects to the business if operational services cease.

Testing this plan is just as important as the development. Conduct quarterly walkthroughs and  encourage employees to give feedback, ensuring all gaps are identified and remedied. Try  randomly conducting these tests by not giving employees notice to see the rapidness of team  members response and the understanding of their role in the operation.

Define your expectations for team performance before conducting random tests of your  emergency response plan. What elements of the plan do you want to see performed first?  Where do you want to see improvement during the hypothetical scenario? These expectations  should be communicated continuously, especially when testing is random. Thorough testing  involves leadership giving a clear, detailed scenario to operate under. Define where the storm is,  the category of the storm, and projected path and damages.

  1. Alternative operational location – A back-up site should be determined. This location will be  utilized to continue operations during the disaster. The facility should be 50 – 100 miles away  from the current organization’s location to lower the chances of both locations being affected.  This location should, ideally, have a generator, computers and other necessary technologies.  Back up your data to this location’s database to ensure all necessary information is available to  continue operations. A copy of the plan should be accessible to all employees.

Understanding what your alternative location needs requires operation managers to walk  through fully operational facilities and identify necessities for every location. The same managers should visit the alternative location and ensure every necessity has a place well before  the storm season.

  1. Employee communication plan – Establishing a tested plan for reliable methods and channels  for employee communication is essential during a natural disaster. Know where your employees  are located and if they are in an evacuation zone. Communicate your evacuation expectations  beforehand so employees know exactly what is expected of them if they are forced to relocate.

Like everything in your emergency response plan, these communication methods need to be  tested. Encourage employees to regularly check these channels and include instructions in  onboarding materials for how to access.

  1. Vendor agreements – Communicating with your vendors before a storm removes any needless  worry on both sides during hurricane season. Develop a document that includes all vendors and  their emergency contact information. Set expectations ahead of time with customers so they  are aware of what your emergency response plan includes. Contact all vendors as soon as the  emergency plan is initiated and keep them updated on business operations.

The key to an effective emergency response plan for small businesses is to ingrain all factors into the  culture and onboarding for the organization. Familiarizing employees with the plan on day one removes  the worry of your team forgetting them when the plan is needed most. Be transparent with your team  and emphasize the importance of this plan being successfully implemented in an emergency.

First Horizon Bank offers financial services that allow small businesses to brave any storm. We have  products and services to prepare you for the potential financial impact of natural disasters. Preparation  is key to coming out of this hurricane season stronger than ever. Ensure your business is protected by  acting proactively.

Lawrence Hatch is the Central Florida market president for First Horizon Bank. Hatch and his team utilize  and introduce a comprehensive suite of private wealth management and commercial banking solutions.  He has worked in the financial services industry since 1999 as a Portfolio Manager, Wealth Advisor and  Market president covering commercial, retail, private client, and music, sports and entertainment. 

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