Preparing For the Worst

While fishing season is in full swing around the country, hurricane season is just kicking off and tornado season is already upon us as well. One thing we have all learned over the years is that a natural disaster can hit anyone no matter where your business is located. As a responsible business owner, you need to be prepared for a natural disaster that can arise at a moment’s notice. Hurricane prediction has come a long way in the past decades, and more tornado-prone areas are equipped with early detection systems. Still, no matter how much warning or preparation time there is, Mother Nature always has the final say on how much damage she will impose on an area.

Here are four tips that will help your business either survive a disaster, or help you get back on your feet a little faster after a disaster.

Be Insured
For many of you, your business is your life, your livelihood and your sole source of income for your family. You have worked most of your life to build your business up and in a few moments Mother Nature can take it all away. While there is no way for you to stop the inevitable from happening, you can prepare yourself financially for the aftermath by having quality insurance. Talk with your insurance agent to ensure your business is covered for anything that could happen. While a tornado’s or hurricane’s winds could easily create the most damage, what about the floods that could follow, or a fire that erupts from downed power line or leaking gas lines – will you be covered for those? Talk with your agent ahead of time; if you wait, like many others will, until a hurricane is forecasted or a tornado hits, you may not get the coverage you need.

Know What You Have
Inventory is your lifeblood; do you know what you have in your store, and the value of the inventory, equipment and supplies? Keeping an accurate tally of these items will help you when you need to submit an insurance claim. Your past tax records should also be added to this list of information you may need. It is also suggested that you keep both a hard copy and an electronic copy off-site in case you are unable to retrieve them from your business after the disaster.

Make Plans
While hurricanes rarely hit without warning, tornados can and do hit when and where they want. Making plans and sharing them with your employees ahead of time will help relieve some of the emotional stress that is felt in the wake of a natural disaster. Do you have a communication plan in place to contact everyone in the aftermath? Phone lines and power lines could be down – this will make communication more difficult. Employees or even yourself could be evacuated before or after the event – make sure there is a communication chain in place and a plan in place to work around missing links, including yourself.

Tornados will create a need for a different form of planning due to their lack of warning. A tornado could easily strike your business while you are open and increase the number of lives you are responsible for if your store is full of customers. Do you have a safe area to shelter everyone in your store if the need arises? Is the location easy to get to and free of objects that could cause harm, such as windows and skylights and glass doors? Are there emergency supplies in the safe area to treat any injuries until medical personnel arrive? Do you, or any of your employees know basic first aid to assist anyone requiring help? These are things to think of ahead of time and share with your employees now before the need arises. People react better if they know what to do; some will still panic, but the more who know what to do and how to react the better prepared you will be.

You will also need a plan in place to contact your suppliers, utility companies and insurance agents. If you are unable to contact everyone yourself you will need assistance from a trusted employee. Decide ahead of time who this key person will be and share the necessary information with them to assist them in this task. Contact your suppliers, utility companies and insurance agent ahead of time as well and let them know that in case of a natural disaster and your inability to contact them that this person has your permission to get the ball rolling. Many companies will not release information to anyone but you; this will slow the process down unless you make them aware of your plans now.

Moving On
No matter what natural disaster strikes your business, you will need to rebuild and reopen. Depending on how severe your store is hit, reopening or rebuilding could take hours, days, weeks or months. You need to mentally prepare for this and realize that many businesses open up after a disaster and are able to move on. How well your business performs after the disaster will depend on what you do now to prepare, and how determined you are to reopen.

Even if your store is not physically impacted by the storm, you may still experience power loss and inventory loss due to the power outage. Live bait is one of the first items many fishing tackle retailers will discover cannot survive without power. Having a generator in place to ensure a constant power supply to keep the live bait alive could pay for itself if your supply is not lost. That same generator could power your cash register, lights and a few computers. Buy a generator before a disaster hits to avoid inflated prices and to ensure you have one when you need it. Keeping a generator properly maintained is also an important part of your reopening. Many people find their generator is not working when they need it to due to lack of maintenance. You maintain your fishing equipment; maintain your generator as well.

Suppliers may not be able to get new stock to you quickly if roads are damaged or they themselves have been hit by the same disaster. Stock supplies if you can in your home or offsite in a storage facility to ensure you have what you need to maintain your business. While we all hope that none of our readers suffer a disaster, it can happen to any of us. You need to remember that your customers, employees and your own personal safety are more important than your business. Your business can be rebuilt – you cannot recreate a life.

Stay safe, plan ahead and know that the sun always shines brightest after a storm.

What plans do you have in place to keep your business running after a disaster? Share your thoughts and plans with your fellow fishing tackle retailers on our Facebook page and on our LinkedIn group.