We had quite the storm in northeast Wisconsin last week! The weather service has now determined there were five tornadoes which struck various parts of our region resulting in an estimated $15-20 million dollars in damage. Beth and I were without power from 12:45 am on Wednesday morning until 10:30am Thursday morning. We were both fortunate to have generators so no loss of food and we were able to keep our cell phones and laptops charged. No internet access, but we were able to keep up with email via our cell phones. We worked Wednesday afternoon at a local coffee shop along with many other small business owners looking for power and internet access. We are lucky to have two really nice spots in downtown Appleton which offer plenty of space, light and internet access as well as good food and drinks.
This storm got everyone thinking about how to deal with disasters such as this. Businesses like ours, which doesn't require a physical location, were able to get up and running quickly by relocating to gain access to power and internet. Businesses with a store front were not so lucky. Some had emergency generators and so were able to open on at least a limited basis. Most of the grocery stores in our area were open and able to sell the basics but they all lost the products in the freezer sections. One of my favorite gas stations was without power and lost out on all the gasoline and coffee sales their competitors enjoyed during the 34+ hours the area was without power. Hopefully they had business interruption insurance.
The federal government has templates for businesses and communities to use to create disaster recovery plans. The templates walk you through what things you need to think about, what contacts you need to be able to access quickly (insurance agents, power company, key employees, key customers). The people in our area who contacted the tree removal experts before they even opened jumped the line and were able to get their homes or businesses cleared more quickly than those who waited until later in the day.
Here is a link to a disaster recovery plan template: http://eden.lsu.edu/EDENCourses/Pandemic/Documents/sampleplan.pdf
I recommend all small business owners create a plan of their own to make sure they mitigate the losses that can occur thanks to mother nature!