How To Weather Any Storm: Tips for Disaster Planning

Pandemic wasn’t the only calamity of 2020 – 22 billion-dollar weather and climate events also set a US record for natural disasters

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Caterpillar Inc.

By Lonnie Fritz, Senior Market Professional, Construction Industries, Caterpillar Inc.

The pandemic wasn’t the only calamity of 2020. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the year was also a record-breaking one for natural disasters. The U.S. experienced 22 separate billion-dollar weather and climate events — the most ever. The combination of severe storms, tropical cyclones, wildfires and drought cost the nation $95 billion in damages in 2020.

Here’s hoping 2021 is a much calmer year. But hope will only get you so far. With most construction work taking place outdoors, natural disasters can wreak havoc on a business. Projects may be delayed; employees may be unable to work; equipment and structures may be destroyed. Preparation is key to ensuring your operation weathers the storm. Here are some steps to take when disaster strikes:

Before: make plans for protection

  • Develop a response plan for natural disasters common in your area. Be sure to include a site-specific evacuation strategy, so if your employees need to leave quickly, they can do so safely. Ready.gov is a great resource for emergency response, crisis communication, disaster recovery and other plans.
  • Check your insurance. Are you protected against the type of disasters (fires, floods, etc.) that may occur in your location? Is the amount of coverage enough to protect your business and bottom line if damage is severe? It’s smart to review your insurance annually and make updates as needed.
  • Establish a safe location where you can store equipment and supplies in an emergency. Don’t forget about protecting company assets, including important paperwork and electronic data.
  • Implement an emergency communications strategy for employees and clients. Discuss emergency preparedness plans with your clients as part of the project planning process and identify steps to keep their work safe.
  • Have supplies handy. There’s no need to stockpile, but don’t wait until there’s a mad rush, either. If you work in a hurricane-prone area, for example, gather items like ground anchors, duct tape, rope, sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting and wire. Portable generators and fuel are always a good idea.
  • Be ready to act. Take advanced warnings seriously and don’t wait until the last minute to start preparing or take action.

After: assess, evaluate and ask for help

  • Wait until after danger has passed and authorities have given the all-clear before you begin to assess damage. Share what you learn with employees and clients, who will be anxious for updates.
  • Conduct a comprehensive assessment. Take photos, document what’s been damaged or destroyed and get in touch with your insurer as soon as possible to get the claims process rolling.
  • Know your options for financial assistance. The U.S. Small Business Administration is a good place to start. Cat Financial also offers natural disaster assistance.

You’ve heard the old saying, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Don’t let a natural disaster catch you by surprise and destroy the business you’ve built. Taking a few simple steps to prepare now will put you one big step ahead when it comes to recovery and rebuilding.

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