Hurricane Idalia strengthened to a Category 1 Tuesday morning, and is expected to increase to a Category 3 storm before making landfall. As Florida residents prepare for the latest hurricane system, businesses should also be preparing. Our thoughts are with all of you as we hope for minimal damage and impact to your businesses, your employees, your families, and our communities.
With four offices across Florida, our firm has taken steps to ensure the safety of our employees as they take the time to prepare for Hurricane Idalia. The Regions Building that houses our downtown Tampa office has closed out of precaution, and our other offices are all monitoring the storm, but rest assured, our services remain operational across Florida. Do not hesitate to contact any of our attorneys and staff.
Here are some last-minute tips for businesses as Idalia intensifies:
- SECURE your Business Property and Office: Work with building management to secure your exterior and interior as much as possible, including boarding up windows, securing any outdoor furniture and equipment, and all interior office equipment. Ask employees to please take the necessary precautions to secure their work areas as well (covering computer monitors, powering down electronics, removing food from fridges, taking all valuables, closing the blinds and office doors). Employees should take all electronics to work remotely if safe to do so.
- COMMUNICATE your Emergency Plan and Contact Information: Ensure that employees are fully aware of the communications plan and the emergency contact information they can contact for the latest news around the reopening of the business and for them to report their situation and safety to you. Communication during a crisis is the most important function of any organization. Ensure the effectiveness of your communication systems; this plan should include how you will communicate with employees, customers, and vendors/suppliers before, during, and after the natural disaster. In the event of a disaster, establishing that all employees and their families are safe should be the first priority. Employees are an essential part of your business, so they need to be aware of the plan and know what to do in the event of a natural disaster.
- DOCUMENT Your Business Assets: Photo and video documentation of the condition of your buildings and assets prior to any loss are extremely important to any insurance claim. Document anything in your property that is going to be of value. Document, Document, Document - in any coverage or insurance dispute, documentation is extremely valuable and can reduce the timing of receiving insurance proceeds, compensation, and financial recovery assistance.
- REVIEW your Business Insurance Coverage: Review your business insurance coverage and policies. Be familiar with required information needed for incident and property loss reports, and update those as needed.
- KNOW the Back-Up Plan: Know the plan of how you will operate your business if you do not have the resources of being back in your building, losing power, Internet, etc. It may take some time to recover, so have plans in place to get your business back up and running if your current location is inaccessible for an extended period.
- AFTER the Hurricane, Be Patient and Have Required Identification Ready: You may not be able to return to your business until search and rescue is complete, and safety hazards are cleared. Business employees are required to have a valid picture ID, documents showing proof of ownership/rental, county business tax license, and/or names of individuals authorized to be given access. Open windows and doors to ventilate and dry your business. If your business has been flooded, have a qualified licensed electrician inspect the electrical system and appliances before turning the power back on. Let the property manager or owner know that you have returned to the premises.
- UNDERSTAND the Recovery Resources Available: Understand what funds your business may be eligible for, including the FEMA Public Assistance Program, Small Business Administration and low-interest disaster loans, Hazard Mitigation Program, and HUD funding, among many others. Contact your attorney and advisor to assist you in understanding the funds available at the federal, state, and local levels.
- Valuable Resources:
We have been here before, and we will be here again. Adams and Reese stands as a resource before, during, and after the hurricane to get you through any natural disaster. Our Adams and Reese Crisis Preparedness and Response Team of attorneys and advisors has helped businesses and individuals across the Southeast with proactive disaster planning, post-natural disaster relief, and advice concerning insurance claims, business interruption, liability, employment issues, and related litigation that may arise following a severe weather event.
Again, our thoughts are with all of you. Do not hesitate to reach out if you need us. Stay safe.