Catastrophe Center

Tips for Resuming Business Operations after a Tornado

When trying to return to a state of normalcy after a disaster, there are many moving parts. Although resuming business operations quickly may seem like the best thing to do, there are certain steps you can take to ensure that your employees, customers and business partners are all on the same page and your facility is safe.

Master the Art of Communication

It's important to communicate clearly and concisely to let everyone know the current status of your company and your plans for moving forward. The best way to ensure consistency of your message is to appoint one individual to communicate across all media platforms. Ideally, this message should come from top management.

Employees – Notify employees through social media, emergency notification systems, 800 numbers and company websites about any changes in business hours or office relocations. Remember, depending on the type of disaster, Internet and phone lines may be down, so the more ways you can get your message out, the better.

Customers – Even if none of your operations are affected, notify customers of your status. This is especially important if your customer base covers a large geographic area, as some areas may be affected while others are not.

Suppliers and Vendors – Ask business partners for their flexibility and understanding after a disaster. They may be able to provide critical equipment or software, or be willing to set up alternative billing or delivery options until your business is back on its feet.

Government Agencies and Regulatory Authorities – You may need approvals for resuming occupancy or rebuilding after a disaster. You're not alone, so it's important to communicate regularly with state or municipal agencies to ensure your approvals are moving along.

Funding Sources – File any insurance claims immediately. If you are a Chubb policyholder, you can rest assured that our team will respond as quickly as possible so you can get back to your business. Click here to begin the claims process. If you need additional funding, you may want to contact your financial institution to activate a secured line of credit or to access an emergency fund.

Be Safe, Not Sorry

Sometimes damage to a building may not be apparent. It's crucial to ensure your facility is structurally stable and devoid of hazardous conditions before employees or customers return. These simple steps can help you re-open for business:

  • Utilize professional engineers to validate the structural integrity of the building or facility.
  • Have electrical, computer and telecommunications systems inspected to ensure that there is no danger from water or other damage.
  • Check water supplies for contamination.
  • Make sure all hazardous materials are safely contained. If any have leaked or dispersed, specialized cleanup and disposal will be required.
  • Replace all filters on equipment to get rid of any dust, debris and chemicals that may clog ventilation systems.
  • Use qualified professionals for the inspection of elevators, fire and life safety systems.
  • Make sure cookware and kitchen utensils that have come into contact with floodwater receive special treatment.
  • Clean, examine and test safety devices and controls on all equipment and repair or replace as needed.
  • If there was a power outage, investigate the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems before energizing and pressurizing them.
  • Get the building tested for asbestos or other chemical/toxic agents.
  • Ensure that all public or employee areas are well-lit and free of debris, water, dust or liquid spills.
  • Obtain any required approvals from public authorities.

Follow the Road to Re-occupancy

If your facility is not yet ready to occupy, these steps may help facilitate any repairs or reconstruction:

  • Identify current building code requirements, including demolition and cleanup ordinances, fire protection and Americans with Disabilities Act and other legal or regulatory requirements.
  • Determine applicable construction standards and obtain necessary permits.
  • Establish priorities at the designated restoration site by identifying critical business applications and processes needed to stay in business.
  • Document all damage, including estimates or prices for repair/replacement, and outline what is needed to resume operations.
  • Implement security procedures at the damaged facility to protect undamaged property. Ensure that access to the facility is controlled and that protection systems have been reactivated and are operational.

Provide Human Resources

Even though your building may pass all safety codes and your employees are physically able to return to work, disasters exact an emotional toll that may make it difficult for people to adjust. Here are some tips to help your employees cope with post-disaster stress:

  • Employees may be dealing with their own losses. Prepare for accommodations such as vans and carpooling, on-site day care and flexible scheduling to help.
  • Schedule regular meetings with employees to communicate progress on any restorations and to reiterate overall corporate objectives.
  • Provide employee assistance services or engage a crisis management firm to help employees deal with stress.
  • If employees are helping with restorations, provide protective equipment such as eyewear, gloves, dust masks and respirators as needed or required.
  • If employees are assigned new tasks during the restoration process, make sure they have proper training and equipment.

For more information about disaster response, go to www.fema.gov or contact your local Chubb Loss Control Services Risk Engineer.