One of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history, Hurricane Ian caused significant structural damage across Southwest Florida – even as thousands of commercial buildings emerged relatively unscathed.

Sunshine Ace Hardware was among a small group of businesses that reopened their doors the day after Ian made landfall, but many businesses that sustained no damage kept their doors closed.

Why?

Public service announcements before and during hurricane season focus on homeowners, expressing the importance of building a hurricane supply kit, installing hurricane shutters, knowing evacuation zones and creating a Plan B based on various scenarios. There is no equivalent PSA for businesses.

With forecasters predicting another active hurricane season in 2024, local businesses should address these four potential roadblocks to reopening after a storm:

(1) Employee communications

It’s important to know where employees live, if they’re staying in town and what challenges they may experience in returning to work. Employees also should know their employer’s expectations about returning to work after a hurricane. Status messages can be sent via text and email, and also posted online.

(2) Power

Generators cannot compensate for the total loss of an electric grid, but in times of crisis, generators can power enough lighting to be safe and some fans to provide comfort. Supermarkets and restaurants that rely on refrigeration may need additional, more powerful generators. Businesses also should maintain a fuel supply to last several days.

(3) Sales transactions

In the aftermath of a hurricane, retail businesses often face significant operational challenges, including the loss of power and internet connectivity. This disruption critically hampers their ability to process electronic payments, which are essential for maintaining sales during recovery periods. However, retail businesses can circumvent this issue by using backup credit card machines that operate on independent cellular networks, such as LTE and 5G. This solution ensures that credit card transactions can still be processed efficiently and securely, aiding in business continuity despite severe conditions.

(4) Supplies

Some of the same items in household hurricane kits also are essential for businesses. Bottled water, non-perishable foods, battery-operated fans, flashlights or lanterns, a portable radio and power banks to charge electronic devices are essential. Cordless drills also are important because hurricane shutter installers may be unable to respond for several days.

Preparation is key

Southwest Florida experienced the worst of what Mother Nature can throw our way with Hurricane Ian, but quick recovery by businesses translated into a quick recovery for the community. Now is the time to prepare your home and business for the next tropical storm or hurricane.

– By Michael Wynn, President of Sunshine Ace Hardware