Disaster Recovery: What Business Owners Can Do After a Catastrophe

No business owner wants to have to deal with disaster recovery, but any business could be affected — and it's crucial to plan ahead.

Suppose you've gotten hit with a major disaster — a storm, flood, fire, even vandalism or theft. A disaster recovery plan formed ahead of time will greatly improve your business's odds of survival, but an event like this can leave even the best-prepared business owner reeling.

Here are a few ideas for how to take control of the recovery process and get help for your efforts:

1. Stay in contact with your insurance representative.

Contact your insurance agent as quickly as possible. Especially for large-scale natural disasters, it may take days or weeks before a claims adjuster can make contact with you. Take photos and videos of the damage so you have a record to show the company, and make sure you collect and preserve all the documentation they request.

It's also a good idea to take written notes to make sure you remember the details of what happened and when. If you have business interruption insurance and think you'll have to close the business during recovery, file a claim for that, as well.

2. Continue communicating with customers and employees.

Crisis communications right after disaster strikes includes spreading the word about your status — including the safety of yourself and your team — and letting people know the status of their orders. But in the longer term, it's still a good idea to update your customers about your recovery. This can help keep your business in their minds and even rally support for your efforts. Use your customer email list or business social media accounts to issue updates.

3. Get information about federal assistance.

The National Small Business Association and the U.S. Small Business Administration offer financial assistance in the form of small-business loans to help businesses with disaster recovery. If you need assistance, start applying as soon as possible, as it can take weeks or months for your application to be reviewed and approved.

4. Consider crowdfunding platforms.

When a major disaster occurs, people across the country and even around the world often offer help to those who have been affected. Online crowdfunding platforms offer an easy way to access help. Numerous small businesses have relied on crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe to explain their needs. No small-business owner enjoys needing help, but sharing your story gives others an opportunity to give back, and it can help you get your business back online. Then next time, you might be the one helping someone else.

5. Take care of yourself and your team.

Disasters can leave a lot of mental and emotional turmoil in their wake. If your business has suffered a catastrophe, you may find yourself shaken and struggling to recover. Talk to medical professionals, look for advice and resources from organizations such as Mental Health America, and be patient with yourself and your team members. Mental health professionals frequently speak about how difficult recovery can be, so rest assured that you're not alone.

Even the best-laid plans can't prevent your business from suffering a disaster, but you can take quick, measured steps to get on the road to recovery as smoothly as possible.