Recovering from a Hurricane: 7 Steps to Ensure Business Continuity

Each hurricane season leaves us with lessons on how to better prepare — and painful reminders of where mistakes were made.

In the wake of a hurricane or tropical storm, businesses should take a close look at their existing corporate-level crisis management, emergency response, and business continuity plans. It’s imperative to ensure these plans are being activated appropriately to help workforces and businesses during and after a crisis.

As you do so, you should focus on seven critical action areas:

  1. Crisis management: Implement your crisis management plan and appoint your crisis management teams quickly and efficiently. This can allow you to get an early understanding of the potential impacts of the hurricane on your people, operations, and property. It can also help you make policy/strategy decisions to address and manage potential impacts — for example, whether to allow employees to take paid time off and/or shift operations to other locations, if possible.
  2. Emergency response: Take steps to protect life safety and protect physical assets. This will be crucial if your employees and properties are close to storm-affected areas. Accounting for all employees and protecting property and assets need to be prioritized. Be prepared to provide frequent updates to senior executives and response teams.
  3. Humanitarian assistance: Prepare to provide employees and their families with the necessary humanitarian assistance during and after a storm. This should include physical, social, emotional, and financial help. Aside from professional counseling and support services, be ready to provide personalized assistance — for example, providing employees with needed supplies or inviting insurance representatives to discuss filing claims.
  4. Business continuity: Your plans should cover the management and logistical process for continuing or resuming and recovering interrupted critical business functions. Support should be coordinated between corporate headquarters and local work sites.
  5. Crisis communication: Ensure that employees and other key stakeholders are aware of your response efforts and their results.
  6. Information technology/disaster recovery: Recovery should include ensuring the availability of networks, applications, and data. This will help support business continuity, including work-from-home and other strategies.
  7. Return to work: Consistent communication of response efforts to employees and other key stakeholders is critical. Regularly update employees on when you plan to reopen, consider returning in prioritized shifts, and facilitate two-way communication to determine when your people can return to work.

Recovering from a hurricane takes time and effort. But taking these steps can better position your organization to better limit the effects of a storm and more quickly resume normal operations. Once this crisis is over, you can apply lessons learned to bolster your response plans and minimize the impact of future disasters.

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Renata Elias

Senior Vice President, Marsh Advisory