Beyond Plywood and Sandbags : Hurricane Prep and Recovery Tips for Small Businesses

Beyond Plywood and Sandbags : Hurricane Prep and Recovery Tips for Small Businesses

Large businesses with multiple locations across several or many states have the resources available to more easily absorb the impact from a major storm. But small businesses are often left with limited resources and support to prepare for and recover from disruptions. In this article, we offer resources and tips on preparation and recovery for small businesses BEYOND plywood and sandbags.


Develop a business continuity plan

There are many free resources available such as the government website or this excellent business resiliency guidebook from America’s Small Business Development Center . There are also experts available at @tempest risk management to conduct risk assessments and design a professional ISO22301 compliant business continuity program for your business. There are free downloads available on the Tempest Risk resources page at including a Business Continuity Plan template designed for small businesses.

small business continuity plan
small business continuity plan

IT and Data  

Fully backup your data on a daily basis. There are many cloud based applications such as Carbonite for backup or cloud based file systems such as Microsoft MS365 and Google Workspace which will protect all of your data and critical company policies and procedures in the event of a disruption. SaaS applications such as the Tempest Gateway and Iluminr are designed to help maintain operations even when you suffer a complete loss of physical or IT infrastructure (Download the App for free on the Apple Store or Google Play)

Facilities and equipment

Instead of trying to save everything, just focus on the most critical items, those that would be difficult to replace or sensitive equipment. Anything that is extra sensitive to moisture, wind or kinetic impact would count. Protect or move them if you can and, if not, figure out where you can quickly get a replacement and have that supplier be prepared to deliver ASAP.

Power needs

No alt text provided for this image

If all you have to worry about is the office coffee maker, you may not need backup power. Consider how your company would be affected by a 3 day power outage. If you would suffer terribly, consider a generator or a desktop UPS such as this one at Amazon that will give you a few extra hours of power OR ability to recharge your cell phone for weeks.

Keep a few long extension cords at the office. You may be able to borrow electricity from a neighboring business who has power.


  • If you have other offices and employees that are out of the impact zone, prepare them to take on additional work in order to maintain your full operational capacity.
  • Consider hiring temporary workers or outsourcing your work that can be done virtually via freelancer platforms such as Upwork and Fiverr.

Cross Training

  • Even if your company does not shut down, key employees may be unable to work due to personal matters or possibly injured or even killed. Make sure all of your key functions have documented standard operating procedures and at least 2 people fully trained with the process access to perform these functions.
  • Consider developing a succession plan. Last weeks article, The 1 Page Succession Plan, is a great place to start.

Communicating to employees

  • Employees are scared. They need to know that you are doing what you can to prepare. Offer support, if you can, and provide them with a way to contact you or someone who is coordinating your disaster response so they can check in.
  • Don’t rely on company email alone. They may not be able to get to it and your systems might be affected by the disruption. Always have a backup method of communication such as a text group, website where you can post messages or a SaaS application like Everbridge for group text messaging or the Tempest Gateway where every employee can list their cell phone and personal email and administrators can send blast app notifications to entire teams or even the entire company.
  • Communicate Before, During and After the disaster. Communicate frequently, maybe multiple times a day, with updates until things have returned to business as usual.

Communicating to customers

If you know you will or may experience a service disruption, let your customers know by:

  • Posting a message on the front page of your website
  • Change your operating/opening hours on Google My Business
  • Post a message on your social media accounts
  • Change your voicemail announcing your expected return to business
PRO TIP: Following the disruption, send an email campaign to all of your current customers thanking them for their understanding and ongoing support of small businesses!


  • First and foremost, reopen for business as soon as you can, even if it is only at 10% capacity. Customers may have needs and if you can be the first business open providing any sort of service, they will remember it. The additional revenue can also help your recovery.
  • Like many businesses learned during COVID, try offering your services in a different manner. Can you provide services virtually via zoom, phone or email until you can re-open your physical location?
  • Engage resources that are available to you such as the SBDC Disaster Response Centers, FEMA and local government officials. There will often be funds and resources available to help with recovery. Some regions have mobile SBDC centers to help small businesses owners apply for recovery funds and provide other support.
  • If you suffered any losses, contact your insurance company as soon as possible. You want to get on the list early because you don’t want to wind up on the backlog.

Don’t just survive, THRIVE!! Turning disasters into a positive

Serious disruptions to your business can be an opportunity to rebuild more efficiently and with newer resources. If you lost all of your paper documents and files, maybe it’s time to go primarily electronic. Research new systems and applications that may be able to  help your business run more efficiently and scale. If you have a close for a period of time, make a bid deal out of your grand re-opening in an effort to welcome back your old customers and introduce potential new ones. Even the worst wildfires are part of a natural cycle of renewal. With the right outlook and approach, you can elevate your business from one that barely survives, to a business that THRIVES!

Andy Ziegler, CBCP and Small Business Continuity Expert

President - Tempest Risk Management

Related Posts