1. Execute your disaster plan
The first step to take after a disaster strikes is to implement your disaster plan. This should include contacting employees and anyone else on-site to ensure they're safe. Verify that your protections for digital data and key documents have kept information intact. Your immediate priority is ensuring the safety and health of anyone on-site, and then moving forward to verify how physical assets and key business processes are affected.
2. Report the damage to your insurance company
You should have business insurance policies in place for when disaster strikes. To quickly and efficiently get the process started, contact your insurance broker or your insurance company as soon as possible. They'll walk you through the process of filing a claim, which may include providing information over the phone or online. Keep detailed notes of each call, including the names of everyone you speak with and copies of any documents you submit. Once a claim is filed, an adjustor will come to your location to assess the damage.
3. Take stock of the damage
Assess the damage to your property. You'll likely want to start with the building itself. For example, a flood might ruin carpeting or damage electrical wiring. It's also important to look at equipment, inventory, and other areas of the business. Determine whether the space can be used for business while repairs are being made. If not, consider a timeline for closure and reopening, or determine if work can be done at a backup location or remotely during repairs. Documenting the damage is important – photographs, videos, and detailed notes can help ensure the best result from insurance claims.
4. Get repairs scheduled and underway
Repairs to the property can begin as soon as your insurance company has assessed the damage; speak to them before starting clean up and repairs. Begin the process by getting quotes from qualified vendors for the repairs. Assess the costs, timeline, and their availability to begin. It may also be helpful, depending on the repairs that are needed, to look at warranties and guarantees vendors offer. Your insurance company may pay for repairs directly, or they may reimburse you if you have the resources on hand to pay from cash reserves.
5. Explore emergency disaster assistance
Disaster assistance may be available from government agencies such as FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). For example, the SBA offers low-interest and long-term loans that are designed to help businesses impacted by disasters.2 Loan options include physical recovery loans to help with building repairs and economic recovery loans to survive cash flow challenges when your business has been negatively impacted by a disaster.
6. Implement a communications plan
Once you know the extent of the damage and have financial resources in place, keep the community apprised. Develop a communications plan that keeps customers, employees, vendors, and the nearby community updated about your schedule. Once you reopen – or resume full operations – you'll have the support you need to get back in business. The first few days after a disaster occurs are crucial. By assessing damage, communicating strategically, and having a plan to get repairs underway, you'll take key steps to get back to business as usual as quickly as possible.