How to Prepare Your Interiorscape Business for a Natural Disaster

Living on the coast of Florida, I’m always attuned to developing hurricanes and when I heard the dire weather predictions for Florence, I was really hoping the forecasters weren’t right this time.

Fortunately for us in Jacksonville, the hurricane isn’t expected to give us more than lots of rain. Unfortunately for the people in the Carolinas, hurricane predictions are severe. Knowing the devastation Houston and other Texas areas experienced last year after Harvey, my heart goes out for those who have been, are being, and will be effected. Then I begin to wonder what if Jacksonville had that amount of flooding — is my business prepared to deal with that level of danger? With hurricane season in full swing and destructive winter weather not far behind, being prepared before a disaster hits is like having a life vest fit for your company.

tornado on farm landFor those not near the coast, there are plenty other weather situations that can cause just as much devastation as hurricanes. For instance, in 2013 when winter storm Nemo hit Connecticut, it left 700,000 without power and caused 18 deaths. In 2012 and 2011, tornadoes and thunderstorms alone caused over 40 billion dollars in losses. No matter what part of the country your business is located, none of us are immune from Mother Nature’s destructive capabilities.

prepare Your Life Vest

People: Our first and foremost challenge is making sure we protect human. Having an escape plan and making sure exit signs are well-lit and visible are easy fixes (well-lit and visible exit signs are also legally required!). What if it’s a tornado or flash flood and the best option is to have everyone remain in your building? Would you know the most secure room to be in? Do you have extra water, medical supplies, and batteries if you are stuck for several hours without power? Communication systems can be one of first amenities to go during storms. Having emergency contacts numbers and two or more lines of communication to reach employees can be instrumental in safety and keeping people informed of business operations. For example, during Harvey, phone lines were down or jammed. People used social media such as Facebook and Twitter to find help. Having you and your staff linked up to the company’s social media pages can be invaluable during these times.

Places & Things: When is the last time you spoke to your insurance agent? A year ago? When you opened your business? Especially if you own your location and several thousand in assets, now is the time to know exactly what and how much your insurance company will pay for damages. A natural disaster is typically not included in many policies. Be very specific with your agent as to what weather related damage they will cover. For example, the difference between the words “Flood” and “Water” damage can be very costly, since “Flood” will cover much less. Once you have your insurance coverage in place, you may want to keep a separate savings account to cover your deductible as well as extra funds to help cover unforeseen expenses and help employees affected.

Worst Case Scenarios: I hate to think morbidly, but I feel this is more like being proactive than reactive. If a major storm warning is forecasted, I have a condensed route plan that can cut servicing accounts from five days to two. It includes using the “Splash and dash method” with more emphasis on the splash. I add extra water knowing it may be another two weeks before getting access again. What if my shop is damaged beyond use? Even if you do have the best coverage, it may take weeks before your location is fixed and safe enough for clients and employees to return. Can you afford to keep your doors closed for a few weeks or maybe months? I have a family owned piece of land located further inland that could serve as a temporary location to house plants, equipment, and vehicles should that be necessary.

Protect and give back

While it’s impossible to know the exact outcome of any natural disaster, preparing as much as possible is the best option we have. Helping the victims of hurricane Florence and other disasters by giving to the Red Cross or donating supplies is one way we can give back. Making sure our companies have good contingency plans is the only way I know to help protect ourselves, our property, and our future business.

Has your business been affected by Hurricane Florence or another natural disaster? Check out the disaster relief resources post to find out how you can apply for help.

Sherry has been part of the interiorscape industry for over fifteen years, starting at an entry level job at North Florida's largest greenhouse and currently owning two horticulture companies. At UMaine, Sherry majored in English where she worked part-time writing scripts for a local college TV studio.

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