What does a business need to succeed? A strong USP, a skilled team, good funding and reliable trading partners are all important, but ultimately, what matters most is resilience. No matter how well organized you are, things inevitably go wrong, and it’s how you cope that counts. This is no less the case when you have to cope with a full-scale disaster.
The new normal
We used to think of extreme weather events as things we might experience once or twice in a lifetime, if at all. Now, as global warming puts more energy into meteorological systems and sea levels rise, they’re getting much more common. Recently, scientists have noted that climate change seems to be causing a shift in the Earth’s rotational axis. If this is the case, seasons are likely to become unpredictable, which will complicate business for anyone in the food sector, and is likely to change the weather risks faced by different regions.
One obvious consequence of sea levels rising is flooding. Businesses can be more vulnerable than residents, because it’s often hard to move heavy equipment upstairs, and paperwork can be easily damaged. If you’re based in an area that may be at risk, simple precautions such as sealing important files and hard drive backups inside waterproof boxes can make a big difference. You can also store some sandbags for use in keeping floodwaters from your door. Replace carpets in downstairs areas with tiled or stone-flagged floors.
If your area is at risk from wildfire, invest in a fire safe for important materials. If you have a basement, you may be able to keep some things safer underground, but remember that you should never delay an evacuation simply to save stuff. You can keep electronic backups of files off the premises, at your home or with a specialist company. When it comes to minor fires, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and doors designed to delay the progress of fires help a lot.
If you live in an earthquake zone, the most important consideration is having a good evacuation plan and having places to shelter (such as underneath sturdy tables) if you’re caught inside the building. Remember that phone networks are likely to be overloaded, so use your social media accounts to post updates rather than contacting people individually. Bear in mind that fires may follow – a sprinkler system could save your life.
The business of recovery
For some people, disaster recovery is business as usual. Catherine Hooper founded Black Umbrella with the specific aim of helping individuals and businesses to become more resilient when faced with such events. She sells products designed to help in the event of emergency – including in situations where the authorities are unable to provide assistance for some time – and provides consultancy services to business owners who want to be better prepared.
Because disasters tend to affect a lot of businesses at once, there’s often a competitive advantage to recovering fast. In the long term, government funding or insurance payouts are often available to help. A natural disaster doesn’t have to sink your business – as long as you’re prepared.