Several of our friends and clients live and work in areas of New York and New Jersey affected by Hurricane Sandy. While most of them were spared the terrible devastation inflicted upon the hardest hit areas, their lives and businesses have been upended by the usual chaos that follows a monster storm. Among them was the Community Health Center of Richmond, a not-for-profit primary health care center located on the North Shore Staten Island. While the island was among the hardest hit areas, CHCR’s neighborhood was not flooded. CHCR was able to reopen after just two days, even though the phone system was still down. CEO Henry Thompson, who lost power at his New Jersey home, was able to get the center back in business so quickly largely because of plans already put into place. We were proud to be able to help with press releases and blog posts from Ohio. CHCR is serving its own patients and helping to relieve the burden for other health centers that were damaged more severely.
Those who’ve been able to keep going with the least interruption have had two things in common–luck and a plan. While luck is capricious and we can never make our lives disaster-proof, there are a few key steps everyone should follow.
1. Have an emergency plan. Sounds ridiculously basic but most people and a lot of small businesses don’t have a disaster plan beyond “lock and leave.” The American Red Cross has an excellent readiness program that includes a 123-point, self-assessement program for businesses, organizations and schools. http://www.redcross.org/prepare/location/workplace
2. Reinforce evacuation orders with your employees. Tragically, as we know now, many of the people who died failed to follow mandatory evacuation orders.
3. Provide employees with information about personal emergency preparedness. Don’t assume that your employees know what to do at home. Reinforce a culture of preparedness.
4. Back up all computer data off site, all the time. Cloud storage has come a long way and while it can be expensive and sometimes cumbersome, when you need it, you really need it. Small portable hard-drives are also an excellent option for freelancers and small businesses who want to keep their current projects ready to grab and go.
5. Get a generator, so that you can keep working even when the power doesn’t. And keep a supply of fuel on hand for the generator.
6. Invest in portable batteries capable of recharging smartphones and tablets.
7. Perhaps most important, designate trusted employees and at least one out-of-town contact as surrogates who can communicate with employees, clients and suppliers to help keep your business running if you can’t.