Disasters are happening more frequently and are creating more significant impacts to residential and business communities alike. In fact, the frequency of recorded natural disaster events has increased nearly 30% since 1990. In New Jersey, major disasters like Hurricanes Irene, Sandy, and, more recently, Ida, taught us the hard lesson of the need for sound preparedness practices.
As an integral provider of human services across the state, The Salvation Army has assisted residents, and businesses, as they prepare for, respond to, and recover from various disasters. A few practical steps can go far to improve post-disaster outcomes for businesses of any size:
Many public-sector agencies, such as FEMA and the NOAA, share historical data on disaster impacts to specific locales. If you are new to your neighborhood, you might consider exploring the research available to learn what past disasters have done there, and what projections exist for the future. This is also true if recent physical changes to your area could exacerbate disaster impacts (e.g., development of wetlands, more high-density housing, increased ground cover by non-permeable surfaces, etc.).
Employees should know what risks exist where they live, and the employer should use this information to predict workforce disaster impacts. Businesses should also maintain an emergency plan that includes sources for accurate information, evacuation and notification procedures, protocols for managing inventory and sensitive data, and how responsibilities may change during disaster.
A well-stocked emergency kit is also a vital resource. Many good kits include shelf-stable food, water, solar-powered batteries and communication devices, flashlights, first-aid supplies, personal protective equipment, medications, and crucial documents. All of these items can be scarce in the aftermath of a disaster, but are necessary for a quick and effective recovery.
Consider how your business will maintain essential functions in your community. This may require refinement of standard operating procedures, redundant and creative supply chain solutions, altering physical vulnerabilities of your workplace, or adjustments to staffing. The better your business can maintain operations, the healthier and more resilient it, and the community at large, will be.
No business can prepare for every eventuality. Disasters will happen and will cause loss. Disaster recovery resources exist both at the state and federal level. The Small Business Administration offers loan programs to businesses, essential non-profits, and homeowners. The New Jersey Economic Development Authority offers strategic grant programs and low-cost financing opportunities. Becoming familiar with these programs will put the forward-thinking business owner in a strong position to recover quickly and effectively after a disaster.
For more information on ways to help your community become more resilient, please visit www.salvationarmynj.org and consider donating or volunteering your time.
About the Author: Seth Ditmer, director of emergency disaster services, The Salvation Army, New Jersey division
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