By the time this column goes to press, the floodwaters and storm surge will have (thankfully) receded. Donations and volunteer efforts might already start slowing to a trickle. But the effects of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, like Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Andrew in 1992, will linger for years.
Lives lost. Property costs ranging into the billions. Thousands of people uprooted. The heroism of first responders and neighbors. All of these topics bear news coverage and discussion. But I want to zero in on a much smaller topic: How ready are you?
I Wasn’t Ready
One August day in 2014, Metro Detroit got 6 inches of rain in just a few hours. I recall driving home through a major intersection already deluged with about 8 inches of standing water, and thinking, “Gosh, this is pretty bad.” It got worse, a lot worse. Two hours later, most of my little suburban city flooded. If I hadn’t come home when I did, I wouldn’t have gotten home that day (except maybe by boat).
Thankfully, my house sits on a high point on its lot. Water filled the street and came up to the front porch. Unfortunately, the sewer system couldn’t handle the stress of a 100-year event, and 3 feet of wastewater swirled in from the drains in the basement. A lot of stuff, memories and records submerged in disgusting, watery sludge.
Texas and Florida Weren't Ready, Either
I don’t lay out my story to diminish the torment Harvey and Irma inflicted on southeast Texas and Florida. We had a single-day event that dropped two months’ worth of rain in a few hours. I can only imagine enduring three or four days of that — by some estimates a year’s worth of rain for Houston in a few days. No one can truly prepare for that. But we can’t throw up our hands in helplessness, either. A few simple steps can get us as ready as possible.
Make a plan for the people in your lives. That’s always first. Make a special effort to consider the most vulnerable people you know. If a major weather event or other disaster happens, who makes sure that elderly neighbor stays safe?
Make a plan for important documents. Keep birth certificates and Social Security cards in a fireproof, waterproof safe. Original documents are tough to replace. For business records, a safe provides some peace of mind. But back up every business record to a cloud drive or other off-site system. That includes insurance policies, incorporation documents, employee files, accounting records, everything. Off-site backups can make the difference between a business surviving a disaster and one that doesn’t.
Make sure insurance is up to date and comprehensive. Yes, insurance can often feel like throwing money away. I would have never thought to buy flood insurance. My city isn’t anywhere near a river or other body of water. But I sure was thankful I had (unknowingly) paid for flood coverage for years. Contractors, make sure everything is covered, from that fleet of vehicles to the office where crews punch the clock. Again, keep copies of policies backed up in the cloud. You never know when the filing cabinet that holds all your financial records might get swamped by sewage.
Disasters happen. While you can never truly prepare for something as devastating as Harvey or Irma, these simple things can blunt the impact. Get yourself as ready as you can. But don’t forget the old axiom: There but for the grace of God, go I. When events like Harvey or Irma happen, help out if you can. Volunteer. Donate. Next time, it could be you. You’d want someone to return the favor.
What do you think? What does your business disaster plan look like? Have tips like these helped you weather a storm? Let us know. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay safe out there, drillers.