As I’m writing this, I’m thinking about Texas and Louisiana and those experiencing the devastating Hurricane Harvey. The road to recovery is a long one, even after the storm blows through and the flooding subsides. But natural disaster doesn’t have to come in the form of a hurricane. It can be a tornado, fire, earthquake, or flood. Whatever the cause, your business could be inoperable for months. How do you come back from that? Even if insurance and federal money cover all your rebuild (we’ll live in fairytale land for a moment), how do you get word out that you’re open for business again? It can be a long hard road but it’s not one you must travel alone.
1. Get by with a Little Help from Your Friends
Often in situations like this, communities come together. Some areas of the city are affected worse than others. We saw that with Hurricane Katrina and the 2016 fire in Gatlinburg. At that time, the communities and surrounding areas came together to help those who lost everything. In New Orleans, some restaurants opened just to feed the people who were in the city to help rebuild.
While nearby Pigeon Forge assisted its neighbors by posting tourist information about what was affected and what wasn’t. That way travelers knew if they could count on their travel plans or needed to make other arrangements. Pigeon Forge also hosted a tent village to help insurance adjusters meet with those who needed their assistance.
2. Assistance from Your Local Chamber
While it’s not on any of their marketing materials, it’s one of the little-known member benefits of being part of a chamber of commerce. Most chambers are uniquely qualified to work as an intermediary between businesses and all sorts of agencies. During disasters, they have stepped into the position of public information officer for the area and many have given up to date information on businesses. Some have broadcast live video coverage to help those outside of the area know what’s going on, which means earlier assistance for those in need.
Because of their reputation as a friend to business, they are often the first people that others think to contact to find out the status of a local business. They are also scouted out by news people as professionals who can speak to the economic comeback of an area.
Being a member of that organization can ensure your voice is heard during the most critical cleanup and rebuilding phase. Chambers represent all businesses in the area—members or not—but as a member, they’ll understand more of your needs and can better help your recovery.
3. Post-post Recovery Needs
Even after the rebuild, there are still many things that leave your business vulnerable including being able to find employees. If your business was closed for an extended period, there’s a chance your employees have found other jobs, especially if there were parts of your area that weren’t affected. Some of them may have even relocated to another part of the country. Your chamber can help connect you with those still looking for work. They can also reach out to nearby chambers to put the call out for employees.
For those struggling to rebuild after a natural disaster, there’s a lot more to recovery than the initial aftermath. After the checks are finally received (if they are lucky to get any) and the nation’s attention has moved onto something else, your community and your chamber are there to help you regrow your business and your life.
Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager Blog.
She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.