By Summit Salon Consultant, Macayla Baskerville
With insights from Hurricane Katrina Survivor, Salon Owner of Salon Sanity in NOLA, Jennifer Boutwell
You are not alone.
In the aftermath of a tragedy, things are going to seem like they’re coming at you at a million miles per hour. Take some time to stop and review all the details that you have collected. This will help you understand what steps you might need to take next to get your business back up and running as quickly as possible.
Here’s a list of items that you should consider at minimum:
1) Make sure employees and customers are safe
After any event that puts peoples’ lives in danger, your number-one priority should be making sure that everyone in and around your facilities is safe. Be sure to get an accurate headcount of employees so you can try to account for everyone that was onsite when the event happened and immediately notify emergency personnel of injuries or missing persons.
2) Re-entering the building
In the event that your store or building is damaged, there is going to be a temptation to re-enter the building to survey the damage and try to save as much of your expensive equipment or sensitive data as possible.
Don’t do that. Damaged buildings can be unsafe to enter, so it’s important to wait for emergency personnel to give you the all clear before you re-enter your building. Check for Loose Power Lines. When floods happen, one of the most important things to check for are loose power lines. Electricity and water don’t mix and it’s better to be safe than sorry. The American Red Cross also suggests checking for damaged gas lines, foundation cracks and other damage.
“If power lines are down outside your building, do not step in puddles or standing water.
More tips from the Red Cross:
- Parts of your salon may be collapsed or damaged. Approach entrances carefully. See if porch roofs and overhangs have all their supports.
- Watch out for wild animals, especially poisonous snakes (alligators have already been spotted in parts of Houston) that may have come into your salon with the floodwater.
- If you smell natural or propane gas or hear a hissing noise, leave immediately and call the fire department.
- Materials such as cleaning products, paint, batteries, contaminated fuel and damaged fuel containers are hazardous. Check with local authorities for assistance with disposal to avoid risk.
- During cleanup, wear protective clothing, including rubber gloves and rubber boots.
- When in doubt, throw it out!
- Contact your local or state public health department to see if your water supply might be contaminated. You may need to boil or treat it before use. Do not use water that could be contaminated to wash dishes, brush teeth, prepare food, wash hands, make ice or make baby formula!
3) Database or record everything.
First, find out where the damage is by sending crews of volunteers to visually assess damage. (As long as it’s deemed safe!) Take photos and video of the damage for future reference. Don’t forget to bring along other items you might need when visiting the site, including flashlights and anti-bacterial wipes.
Then, deploy volunteers to help with the cleanup. Be sure to have everyone sign waivers for safety reasons, and track what hours are being worked at what worksite. FEMA needs this information to process federal disaster aid, and it can make a big difference for the community.
Start making a list of absolutely everything. (equipment, inventory, employee tools, etc.) You can also start a Pinterest board and pin items that you had in your salon. If it is possible to get receipts of purchases from your distributor it would be great. If you can access your software, you can print the on-hand inventory list in all departments.
4) Determine if a temporary facility is needed to limit business interruption.
Your business interruption policy should pay for this. Check your policy to see if it also includes covering the income of your service providers. In the past, some salons were given money to pay for lawyers and consultant to help get their company up and back to business as usual. When your facility is compromised, it can be difficult or even impossible to keep operations moving, and you may need to quickly come up with answers to the following questions:
- Where will important equipment and documents be stored?
- Is a temporary onsite location available? For example, a mobile office out of harm’s way, or will you need to use a temporary offsite location?
5) Access key contacts speed-dial list
At minimum, this list should include a list of key contacts, including first responders, local hospitals, your insurance broker, emergency response vendor and so on. Stay in contact with emergency partners pre-and post-incident to discuss logistics, impact locations, and resource availability.
6) Activate HR emergency response plan
Your HR plan is key to keeping the business operational on whatever level is possible under the circumstances. Key action items should include:
- Assisting with communicating areas of accountability and responsibility for key personnel
- Establishing a call tree and updating the main company voicemail message
- Distributing directions to the temporary work site and contacting critical personnel to notify them of procedural changes
- Continuously rallying employees and assuring them that by working together the business will survive and prosper. Over communicate. Team meetings or activities are a great way to maintain employee engagement
7) Contact your prequalified emergency restoration partner
If you already have a relationship with an emergency restoration provider, they should be able to help you quickly secure your site and begin outlining what will need to happen during the recovery process. If you don’t have a relationship with a provider in place and are in a time crunch, focus on the following three criteria as you evaluate provider options:
- Safety record—a sound safety record says a lot about a provider’s culture as well as their efficiency and efficacy.
- Experience level—the more types of situations a contractor has seen, the better they will likely be at helping you quickly and effectively navigate your situation.
- Reliable references—even in urgent situations, don’t skip calling references. The vendor will be a key part of your team for a very crucial time period, so it’s important to know they will have your back.
8) Revisit accounting/purchasing systems
Once you’ve addressed concerns about people and property, you will need to start thinking about broader business considerations. One of the first items on your to-do list should be confirming that accounting and purchasing systems are set up with vendors, account information and tracking numbers to capture loss costs. Contact your lender, mortgage company, car, etc. and ask for 3-6-month grace period without penalties.
9) Confirm undisturbed supply chain connections
Let your upstream supply chain partners know that you have experienced a disaster and determine if the disaster also has affected their ability to provide you with what you need to conduct your business efficiently. If so, discuss workarounds that may help keep parts of the business operating as usual (i.e. source new suppliers). Check with other RDAs in the area that may not have been affected by the water and may be able to fill orders. (you may need to pick up as they won’t be able to deliver into your area)
10) Contact your insurance carrier or broker and FEMA
Quickly communicating your loss to your insurance company is essential to getting your claim paid properly. This will take hours! If you delay filing, your settlement could be reduced or even denied. To avoid potential questions about your claim, inform your insurer and/or broker about the loss as soon as possible—with as much detail as possible, including (but not limited to):
- What was damaged, including the cause or suspected cause
- The day and time it occurred
- Who will be the primary contact person
- Notification about your plans to secure the area
- 3 years’ worth of sales plans
- 3 years’ worth of tax returns
DO NOT ACCEPT ANYTHING WITHOUT A LAWYER.
Adjustors are in the business to save insurance companies money. They do NOT have your best interest in mind. Make sure you have a lawyer look over everything to ensure you are getting the max your policy allows.
11) Execute your external communications plan to update your community
Without a plan in place, it can be difficult to communicate the right messages about your business after a disaster. Ideally, you will maintain an external communications team and plan that will help you with the following:
- How often your company will update social media streams and websites.
- Who will be responsible for reaching out to public aid organizations, such as the Red Cross, FEMA and the CDC, for example.
- The immediate mobilization of PR/communications spokes-person(s) to be “out in front” Let your customers know that you experienced a disaster and that you are working to restore regular operations and services as quickly as possible. Let them know if your doors will remain open throughout the recovery (or partially open).
Companies need to think “outside-in” and be sensitive to the needs of natural disaster victims and those that empathize with their situation. Ensure that nothing you are posting could come across as insensitive.
During natural disasters, good companies look at them as opportunities to build closer relationships with customers. They understand that the focus should be on building the goodwill of their brand and strengthening the public trust. On the other hand, naive or marketing-challenged companies give the impression that they are exploiting customers during disasters. Some even charge painfully higher prices for fuel, flashlights, water, and other essential items. Smart companies will take the longer view and sacrifice sales and profits in the short run to build goodwill and trust in the longer run. In times of great need, people have exceptionally good memories. They remember those that help them, and they never forget those that try to take advantage of them
Knowing what to do after a disaster can make all the difference in a speedy recovery. But as you can see, based on these steps, it’s a lot to think about. I want each of you to know that you are not alone.
Our team is here for you.