August of this year brought severe flooding to Louisiana, leaving residents and businesses alike struggling to recover from the aftermath. Natural disasters like these continue to hurt both state-level and local economies long after the water recedes. For Louisiana businesses, developing a business continuity plan will ensure you and your employees are prepared to take the necessary steps to open your doors once again.
Creating a Business Continuity Plan
Business continuity plans aren’t just for floods; they’re operational blueprints to ensure your business will suffer as little downtime as possible with as little loss as possible during any disruption of business. Whether the threat is a flood, wildfire, extended power outages, or a cybersecurity breach, having an effective plan already in place provides clear direction, achievable goals, and pre-arranged access to needed resources.
When designing a plan for your business, consider reconstruction, repair, and any safeguards or protocols that might prevent future losses. SBA.gov, DisasterRecovery.org, and Ready.gov are all excellent resources for offering recovery plan guidelines and designing formal plans in advance. Some key points from these resources include:
• Contacting Your Insurance Company. In addition to having your flood insurance policy and contact numbers readily accessible, the Louisiana Department of Insurance advises thoroughly documenting and photographing all damages. As you protect your property from further damage, keep complete records for all temporary repairs as well as the permanent ones while you rebuild and restore.
• Turning Off Utilities and Services. Thanks to automation, if you don’t cancel amenities like electric, gas, telephone, Internet, and water, those companies will continue to bill your company despite unused services. Cancel unneeded services and utilities until you can use them again. If you don't have your provider's contact information, you can find them on the Louisiana Public Service Commission website.
• Reconstructing Financial Records. Despite disaster, you may need financial records for insurance reimbursement, federal assistance, and tax purposes. In addition to contacting your accountant or attorney, the Internal Revenue Service’s Disaster Resource Guide for Individuals and Businesses offers sound advice on how to obtain the documentation you’ll need.
• Communicating with Vendors, Customers, and Employees. If normal lines of communication are offline, you’ll still need to be able to interact with your business’ vendors, customers, and employees. You may need to cancel deliveries, revise billing and payment arrangements, temporarily relocate operations, and have mail held or redirected.
Locating Financial Disaster Recovery Resources
Within the Lafayette area, One Acadiana is committed to ensuring the region’s recovery leads to even more successful economic development by helping small businesses re-open their doors. Our website's Flood Recovery Resources page includes vital disaster assistance and recovery information on the:
• Louisiana Small Business Rebirth Fund, which offers “triage” grants to small businesses within the 20 parishes affected by the most recent flooding. Businesses who were affected should apply by close of business on Friday, September 2. For those interested in donating to the fund, visit LaBizRebirth.org.
• Small Business Administration (SBA) and its federal disaster loan programs, Louisiana Small Business Development Centers (LSBDCs), and Recovery Centers. Small business owners have access to free counseling and assistance services as well as SBA disaster loans.
• Louisiana Business Emergency Operations Center (LBEOC), which provides everything from disaster mapping to contractor information and links to assistance programs. You can register your small business to receive assistance and important news alerts as well as become a part of the state’s resource list during recovery.
• IRS and the Louisiana Department of Revenue can provide tax relief for storm victims. These sources offer guidance on the documents you’ll need as well as filing and payment extensions.
• Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which not only manages the national flood insurance program but also provides additional assistance for both those with insurance and those without. You can even download the FEMA app, and the site is set up for Louisiana flooding victims.
Beyond those, FEMA’s DisasterAssistance.gov website provides a wealth of information and links for every situation and business. You can find additional local resources as well as trusted authorities on cleaning up, rebuilding in environmentally safe ways, locating disaster loans, planning for the future, shoring up finances, finding employment and qualifying for benefits, filing insurance claims, addressing personal health and hazards, coping with stress and mental health issues, and even securing official documents.
The overriding caveat to recovery after disaster is due diligence. Check all representatives’ credentials with the Better Business Bureau, and approach too-good-to-be-true deals with caution. Clean-up and restoration are capital-intensive ventures. Always start with trustworthy recovery resources, and entrust your livelihood only to fully vetted services that can provide proof of proper licensing, bonding and insurance. Substandard repairs or stopgap measures that do not conform to code will not pass the required building inspections.