Individuals who own and operate businesses affected by floods must take precautions and steps to help mitigate damage to property and business operations. Preventing permanent closure of a business is critical to your personal financial interests and to the many employees and community members who rely on your business for jobs and community well-being. Below is a list of resources that can assist you as you prepare your business for rising waters and subsequent recovery.
During all stages of preparation and recovery, it is recommended that you work with local and state officials and utility companies to ensure safety of your employees and premises. Consult your insurance agent, attorney and banker to keep them apprised of any contingency plans for your business operations.
Flood Insurance. The National Flood Insurance Program webpage is dedicated to answering questions about flood insurance. If you are considering flood insurance, please note that flood insurance has a 30-day waiting period before the policy becomes effective. Contact the National Flood Insurance Program at 1-888-379-9531 to locate an approved insurance agent or use their searchable agent listing at ( www.floodsmart.gov ).
Whether you have flood insurance or not, take steps to record your property loss:
- Locate your insurance policies and contact your agent for insurance protocols.
- Secure records that document inventory, equipment, furniture and fixtures. Include model numbers, serial numbers, descriptions, purchase costs.
- Take photos or video of the interior/exterior of your business property, including any outlying storage facilities, equipment.
- If possible, move electronic equipment to a location for easy access during flooding and recovery stages. Back up electronic data and store off-location. Download the Security Squad Workbook for tips on documenting electronic equipment and software and securing vital business data.
Continuity Plan. If you have already in place a business continuity plan, now is the time to put it into action and marshal the resources to secure business operations. If you do not have a continuity plan in place, visit Department of Homeland Security Ready Business for tips on business disaster planning.
During the Flood
Communicate with Employees, Customers and Suppliers . These individuals are vital to the survival of your business.
- Create a contact list for existing critical business contractors and others you plan to use in an emergency. Keep this list with other important documents on file, in your emergency supply kit and at an off-site location.
- Contact your employees to set up temporary office procedures.
- Communicate to customers your status of operations, how they can reach you and your temporary location (if applicable).
- Contact vendors, post office and other delivery services to let them know of your location or to stop delivery services temporarily.
Start Insurance Claim. When you have incurred a lost, go ahead and contact your insurance agent to start your flood insurance claim. Have available your policy number and a phone number and/or email address where you can be reached. All flood insurance policies require you to give prompt written notice of loss to your agent or insurance company.
Turn Off Utilities. You will also want to check with other Utility providers to temporarily turn off your services at the flooded location until you are re-established or redirect services to a temporary location (if applicable). This will save utility costs during business closedown at your facility. When your business is ready to re-open, call these utility companies to return service.
After the Flood - Recovery Stage - Property
Electrical Safety. Electricity and water do not mix! The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) has published guidelines on how to best ensure your safety prior, during and after flood stages: Home Electrical Safety and Commercial & Industrial Disaster Safety
Re-enter Property: Use caution when re-entering buildings. Contact local and/or state officials for assessment of structural damage and safety for you and your employees. If you lease space, contact the building owner and ask if they will conduct an inspection. In some cases, you will not be allowed to enter the building until fire and police have established the area as safe and a mandatory evacuation order has been lifted.
- Floods: First Entry of a Flooded Home (applicable to businesses also).
- First Steps to Flood Recovery - Re-entering Buildings
Assess flood-related Damage. Once it is safe to enter your building or office space, begin assessing damage to determine what is salvageable and how long recovery efforts might take. Licensed electrician and plumber are needed to assess and repair damage to the electrical and utility systems. City/County inspections may be enforced prior to restoring utility services.
- Storm Recovery Guide
- FEMA After a Flood: The First Steps
- FEMA Scam Artists in Wake of Flooding , (PDF file, 55KB) June 15, 2008 article adapted to Nebraska.
Document and Record Recovery. If print or digital records are vital to your company operations, it is important to begin the recovery of these documents as soon as possible. The University of Washington has provided a great outline of how to go about the records recovery process, including tips on prioritizing damaged documents, destroying beyond-repair records and the documentation of this, storage of damaged documents to help slow down the disintegration and more.
Clean Facility. Again, ensure the safety of the building before entering. Begin the cleanup of your office space/facility, taking all health and safety precautions. See Cleaning Up After the Flood.
After the Flood - Recovery Stage: Financial
Process Insurance Claim. Although you have been in contact with your Agent during shutdown or relocation, you will want to start reviewing your loss with your Agent, once you are cleared to return to your business property by local officials.
Additional post-flood steps to record your property loss:
- Make a thorough inventory of all missing or damaged items.
- Take pictures inside and out for documentation before repairs are made.
- Keep receipts for any expenses required to protect your property from further damage.
- Secure and protect your property against further rain or other damage without making permanent repairs, so an adjustor can see the full extent of damage.
- Follow the claims-filing procedure set forth in your policy. If there is a dispute, follow the company's dispute process.
- Settlement offers from insurers can be negotiated. You don't have to take the first offer.
- If you have issues with an insurance company, call your state Department of Insurance or visit their website.
Assess Business Viability A disaster can cripple the viability of a business’s ability to start-up again in the same location, or even open the doors at all. Realistically assessing your business contracts, equipment repair or replacement costs, management/employee availability, and other key business functions will help determine your post-recovery actions.
The Disaster Recovery Plan for Business, developed by the Nebraska Business Development Center can help you step through and make important decisions as you consider the long-term viability of your business.
Contact Your Business Advisors
There are various possibilities in regards to your taxes and unemployment insurance that you may want to discuss with your attorney and/or accountant. You may be eligible for tax deductions on certain losses, with the possibility of claiming a federal casualty-loss deduction if your business is in a federally declared disaster area.
- Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA), assistance for temporary income to eligible individuals who become unemployed as a result of a major disaster, if federally declared.
- Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Assistance
- Contact Nebraska Development Center nearest you to help with document filings.
Besides your local banks and credit unions, many communities have access to short-term revolving loan programs that can help with gap financing or emergency operating loans. Contact your local economic developer or city administrator to learn more about available resources in your community or region.
For more information on how Nebraska Extension can assist your business, contact your local Extension office or Flood Recovery Business Contact: Marilyn Schlake