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Preparing your business for disaster recovery includes securing all your important documents in a waterproof "go bag" before the storm.
Posted October 9, 2017 | 10:12 AM

The First Business to Open after a Disaster Wins

Free FEMA program helps businesses identify risks and prepare

Shortly after Hurricane Irma barreled through the Tampa Bay area, dozens of small business and community leaders attended a free workshop to help them better prepare to weather the next hurricane or flood. The Sept. 28 workshop in Hillsborough County closed out the pilot phase of FEMA's Ready Business program to assist businesses in developing all hazards preparedness plans.

Business owners attended the Ready Business workshop on Sept. 28 to learn about preparing for the next storm

Business recovery is critical to helping communities rebound after disasters. "Statistics show that a lot of small businesses who cannot reopen immediately after a storm event, or any natural disaster, may not reopen at all", according to Mike Rimoldi with the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH). FLASH has been assisting FEMA with the development of the Ready Business program and selected Hillsborough County as the first location to host a program workshop in Florida. Industry professionals and interactive panels provided attendees information about the Ready Business program and resources, the science and risks of hurricanes and inland flooding, an overview of emergency response, and how to tackle a business self-assessment.

Economic Development's James Chittenden provided tips on doing a business self-assessment to plan for disasters during the Ready Business workshop on Sept. 28

Gabriella and Cass McColeman, a husband and wife real estate team, were out of town as a category 4 Hurricane Irma advanced on Florida. When they rushed back to secure their home and business, they were also thinking of ways to ensure their East Tampa and South Shore clients had the critical information they needed to prepare for the storm. The McColemans attended the workshop because they felt it was essential to know more about the risks to both their business and clients. Cass said they are planning to put what they learn to use by creating hurricane preparedness email templates to share vital information with their current and prospective clients.

Sometimes simply surviving the storm and being able to reopen your doors isn't the only reason to plan ahead. Businesses prepared to reopen before their competition can gain more solid financial footing to recover and potentially gain new loyal customers.

The five steps to developing a business preparedness plan are:

  1. Identify your risks to determine the specific areas your business needs to address
  2. Write a plan that identifies actions needed to ensure safety and business continuity
  3. Perform prioritized preparedness and mitigation activities
  4. Test and evaluate your plan through training and exercises
  5. Continually identify necessary changes and plan improvements
James Chittenden with Hillsborough County Economic Development shows off a crucial tool in business emergency planning - a waterproof bag to secure important documents

The Ready Business program provides easy to follow checklists to walk business owners and operators through identifying risks, developing a plan, implementing a plan, and inspiring others to prepare.

Business owners who prefer one-on-one assistance with developing a business continuity plan can access confidential expert consulting through Hillsborough County's Entrepreneur Services at no cost.

Photo Information:
Photo #1- Business owners attended the Ready Business workshop on Sept. 28 to learn about preparing for the next storm.
Photo #2 - Economic Development's James Chittenden provided tips on doing a business self-assessment to plan for disasters during the Ready Business workshop on Sept. 28.
Photo #3 - James Chittenden with Hillsborough County Economic Development shows off a crucial tool in business emergency planning - a waterproof bag to secure important documents.