Surprise! 5 Post-Disaster Gotchas You’ll Want to Avoid

“Life is full of surprises” is one of those phrases that’s tough to hear when you’re already having a bad day.

It can be especially frustrating after a disaster when simply processing what just happened is more than enough to deal with. Yet the reality is that after a disaster, the surprises usually come fast and furious at a time when you’ll want to get your business back up and running as quickly as possible.

That’s why we wanted to share a few things that frequently surprise people after disasters. Being prepared for these possibilities can put you on a much faster track to recovery.

1) Losing power
Regardless of the type of disaster, be it a flood, windstorm or thunderstorm, tornado, fire, hurricane, or even an unusually heavy winter storm, there’s a good chance you will lose power. In some cases, it could be an issue with the power grid. In other cases, such as water incursion from a flood, it could be an issue with your electrical system (and potentially the grid as well).

How can you get prepared?
Remember that depending on the circumstances, restoring power can be dangerous. It’s a good idea to have an established relationship with an electrician who can help ensure the power is restored safely. For example, if outlets or your electrical panel were exposed to water. If you think you might need to rely on an emergency generator, it’s best to install a quick connect system into the feed panel because people can be seriously injured or killed trying to rig a connection.

2) Forgetting to ask, “what just happened?”
This one may seem obvious, but it’s not as simple as it sounds. Some hazards or damage may not be clearly visible. The first surprise above is a perfect example. If an electrical panel or system was exposed to water, it needs to be properly inspected by an electrician before turning it back on. Otherwise, you could face a fire, in addition to flooding damage. What’s more, insurance contracts stipulate that you need to mitigate further damage after an event. So if there is a hole in the roof from a wind storm, once the event is over you need to properly protect the area around and under the hole. Otherwise, if it rained or snowed, the insurance company most likely would not cover the water damage.

How can you get prepared?
Make sure you designate someone to assess the entire building and property for damage after an event. Look for obvious damage, as well as issues that you may need to mitigate before they lead to further damage.

3) Forgetting to ask, “how can we continue operating?”
Depending on the business you are in, this can be a hugely important question. For example, we’ve seen manufacturers open a backup location and nursing homes move residents to apartments down the road.

How can you get prepared?
If you simply can’t afford to be down for more than a day or two, or people’s lives hang in the balance, then it’s imperative to have a backup plan and location(s).

4) Forgetting that you can’t rely on the community
In a community-wide disaster, this point should be number 1. That’s because, with events like hurricanes or widespread flooding, resources in the local market are depleted very quickly. You simply can’t expect to rely on the same people that you would with an isolated incident because they will be hurting too.

How can you get prepared?
If you are in an area that is susceptible to natural disasters, consider establishing a relationship with a national restoration provider before an event, since local providers may not be able to help. A partnership with a restoration provider can pay big dividends in the event of an area-wide emergency when everyone will be scrambling to find help. Not only will you already be on your provider’s list, but you’ll know what to expect from a price and procedure standpoint.

5) Overlooking the importance of IT
While IT may generally only be a matter of life or death in healthcare environments, on some level it’s fundamental to the ongoing operations of almost every business today. What would happen if you lost some or all your computers and servers to water damage or a fire?

How can you get prepared?
If IT is mission-critical, it’s essential to have a complete contingency plan for your infrastructure. At the very least, it’s important to consider if you need battery backups as well as backup systems on or off-site. Establishing clear work from home policies is also a good idea, even if you don’t allow some or all employees to work from home under normal circumstances. In a disaster situation, the option to work from home can not only help you keep some parts of your operation moving, but it can also help reduce stresses on employees.

Know You Will Still be Surprised
Keep in mind that these five examples are only the beginning of typical post-disaster surprises. Depending on your industry and business, there may be a host of other difficult issues or situations that are important to be aware of. One of the best ways to figure out what may be in store is to prepare a disaster recovery plan that considers the various disaster scenarios your business is most likely to face. Our Jump Start Recovery Plan template is a great place to start. In addition, check out our 15 Critical Actions to Take Before a Strom Checklist.

About the Author: Brian Wooley
Brian is the Vice President of Operations at Interstate and has led our national response efforts through numerous area-wide events (including Tropical Storm Irene, Hurricane Sandy, the Joplin tornado, Hurricane Matthew). As a 22-year industry veteran, Brian has expertise in all aspects of our restoration services and serves as our “quarterback” when disaster strikes.