How to Prepare Your Business for a Hurricane in a Pandemic

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The last thing anyone wants to hear is that a hurricane or tropical storm is headed toward their business. This is doubly true during a pandemic such as the one in which we’re currently mired. Though there are steps one should always take before, during, and after a hurricane, the COVID-19 crisis has made for even more precautions.

Here is what you need to know so your business can bounce back from a storm, even during one of the most unsettling times in our nation’s history.

Things You Should Always Do

Some of the actions business owners should take to safeguard their livelihoods are not unique to the coronavirus outbreak. These include the following:

  • Make sure your property’s insurance policy covers both wind and flood damage. While wind damage is included in many standard policies, flood protection usually costs extra. If you don’t already have it, purchase it ASAP.
  • Storm-proof your business. Board up windows and sandbag doors to keep water out, bring in any outdoor objects that could fly away, and (if possible) move furniture, appliances, and other valuables from the first floor or basement to higher levels in order to prevent flood damage.
  • Photograph the property. Take extensive, detailed photos of the interior and exterior of your business before the storm arrives and after it departs. When you file your insurance claim, you’ll need to prove that the damage occurred during the storm, not before. These images are key pieces of evidence that you need for a successful claim — or, if necessary, a lawsuit.
  • Have a go-kit and a plan. Assume you won’t be able to access your business for a few days, and pack any supplies (laptops, papers, etc.) that you’ll need during this time. You should also form a plan for what to do while the business is out of commission, then communicate that plan to your employees and your customers/clients.

Prepping During a Pandemic

Unfortunately, the persistence of the COVID-19 crisis means that you have several other factors to consider. For example:

  • Your go-kit should include face masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend two masks per person and sanitizer that’s at least 60% alcohol.
  • Double-check the location of your local shelter. You may know where it is under normal circumstances, but the pandemic has thrown so many of our standard procedures into disarray. Make sure that the location of the shelter hasn’t changed. You may need it.
  • Whenever possible, maintain a safe distance while evacuating or displaced. It may not be easy, but even when there’s a hurricane rolling in your direction, you should try and stay six feet away from people, especially when you’re at the grocery store, pharmacy, or shelter, surrounded by strangers. No matter where you are, be sure to cover coughs and sneezes, wash your hands frequently, and disinfect surfaces (especially doorknobs).

The Storm Has Passed, but the Virus Remains

As one emergency subsides, you’ll still have another to grapple with. Here are some things to keep in mind as the hurricane moves away from your business:

  • Going to the hospital is more challenging than usual. The pandemic has placed a heavy burden on our healthcare system, so if you’re hurt, you may have to wait longer for medical care. Or, depending on the extent of your injuries, you may decide that it’s safer to access telemedicine and wait to see a doctor in person.
  • Your emotional distress may be severe. Hurricanes are incredibly stressful. So is the COVID-19 crisis. Combine the two and you have a recipe for extreme anxiety, grief, and psychological unrest. These feelings are natural, and you shouldn’t try to deny or bury them. Instead, talk about them with someone you trust, such as a partner or family member. If necessary, speak to a mental health professional.
  • Pests may have taken up residence in your business. Rats, mice, and other unwanted visitors tend to seek shelter in a storm, and this is especially true in a pandemic, when so many restaurants (their usual go-tos) have shut down.
  • Don’t toss safety measures aside in a rush to get back to work. You may have contractors on your property making repairs and other improvements so you can reopen after the storm. Make sure everyone in the building wears a mask and, when possible, maintains a safe social distance. You also need to have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for your employees before they can return to the office, and to disinfect all surfaces, including desks, tables, floors, elevators, etc.

You may be relieved that the hurricane has passed, and eager to resume making a living, but remember that the pandemic hasn’t gone anywhere (yet). By staying vigilant and taking the same precautions you did before the storm, you can mitigate its damage and reopen safely and efficiently.

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