Hurricane Ida made landfall along the Southern Louisiana coast as a powerful Category 4 storm on Sunday. Rapidly intensifying over warm Gulf of Mexico waters and moving slowly as it delivered life-threatening storm surges, destructive winds, and torrential rains, the hurricane added insult to injury when it arrived exactly 16 years after Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the New Orleans area in 2005.
Meanwhile, an anxious nation tracks the impact Ida could have across a broad swath of the Southeast this week. Significant rainfall and severe flooding could affect Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, and the Carolinas as the remnants of the storm head northeast.
Every business owner that’s survived a hurricane, tornado, flood, fire, or other disaster knows how unpredictable situations like this can be. Circumstances can go from bad to worse in a heartbeat; sometimes, a storm can weaken or change direction at the last moment, sparing one area the worst while delivering an unexpected blow somewhere else.
That’s why preparation is so important key in situations like these. With 25 years of experience helping clients across North America weather the worst storms, CMIT Solutions suggests the following basic precautions that can help your business survive before, during, and after a natural disaster.
• Make sure that important business data is regularly, remotely, and redundantly backed up. This should include on-site and cloud-based backup versions so that data is accessible immediately after a disaster on local machines—or in a downloadable version in case of hardware failure. Saving your data in at least two different locations can help you weather everything from human error to hurricanes to ransomware attacks.
• Verify UPS (uninterruptible power supply) batteries and surge protectors. These kinds of units can be a lifesaver during power outages, spikes, or blackouts, keeping critical machines running while also protecting them from unexpected jolts of electricity caused by a sudden loss or reset of power.
• If they’re not critical to day-to-day operations, shut down, disconnect, and move PCs, servers, printers, and other equipment. If your office lies in a flood-prone area, is located near a body of water, or has lots of windows that could be damaged in a storm, move powered-down and unplugged equipment to the highest, driest spot possible to spare it from potential floodwaters or rain. Desktop computers, monitors, and telephones can be placed in industrial-strength trash bags for an extra layer of protection. If any files saved on those machines are not backed up, copy them to a server or external drive to further reduce the risk of data loss.
• Test remote access protocols for you and your employees. Once physical equipment has been secured and you ensure that all employees are safe, do a run-through of any remote access procedures that could allow you to maintain normal operations. In many cases, the businesses that bounce back from a natural disaster fastest are those that have a plan in place to keep working as needed.
If you need assistance with any of the above actions, contact CMIT Solutions immediately.
• Maintain communications with colleagues and staff. Unlike automated procedures, the human element of disaster response can’t be planned perfectly. We all react differently to the stress, anxiety, and fear of traumatic events—and when it comes to weather, an element of unpredictability always exists. If you can outline steps to take and forms of communication to rely on in advance, though, you and your employees will know where to turn to stay in touch during a disaster.
• Avoid using candles, open flames, or generators indoors. Rely on a flashlight or LED lantern for emergency lighting if you’re inside. Position generators outside, at least 20 feet away from any part of a structure before you start running it so any exhaust is safely disseminated. If you plan to connect a generator to any electrical outlets, turn the circuit breakers off before starting it to prevent costly damage.
• Stay calm until the threat has passed. If you’re in a safe location during a hurricane or other catastrophe, stay there until local authorities say it’s OK to safely venture out. Resist the urge to check on your office or equipment one last time, especially if weather conditions are deteriorating. Stay in touch with family, friends, and colleagues as much as you can, especially if power and cell phone service remain reliable. Staying calm during the worst of a disaster can help you respond reasonably and rapidly once it’s safe.
• Assess and document any damage to your home, your office, and your equipment. Capturing this in the moment with photos and detailed notes can help immensely in the future if insurance claims need to be filed or replacement equipment needs to be procured.
• When leaving a safe place to assess the damage, NEVER attempt to drive through standing water or around downed power lines. As little as six inches of water may cause you to lose control of your vehicle—and one to two feet of water will carry away most cars. A common saying is, “Turn around—don’t drown,” a lesson that is highlighted each spring when creeks and rivers flood and each summer when hurricane season starts.
• Look for areas that are visibly wet or contaminated by moisture. Remove and discard any porous materials that may have been impacted by water as these can contain mold spores or other dangerous toxins that could potentially damage equipment, even if it looks undamaged or otherwise fine. If your devices have been submerged or exposed to the elements, do not power them on—doing so can worsen the damage already done and make it impossible to recover your data.
• Put your disaster recovery and business continuity plan into action as soon as it’s viable. The Small Business Administration estimates that nearly 60% of businesses that are affected by a natural disaster never recover. If your office isn’t damaged or your company emerges otherwise unscathed from a disaster, don’t wait to return to the normal flow of day-to-day business. Once conditions are safe, recover data and restart undamaged equipment to be able to resume operations. This can help your company beat the odds and bounce back from a natural disaster.
If you need help with any of the above actions or don’t have a disaster recovery and business continuity plan in place, contact CMIT Solutions immediately.
It will take time to fully account for the impact Hurricane Ida had on the Gulf Coast—and hurricane season still has a busy month ahead. Meanwhile, other natural disasters like floods, fires, and tornados can impact anyone anywhere in North America. As a North America-wide network of small business owners, CMIT Solutions understands the need to assess the damage, recover data, and get back to normal operations as quickly as possible.
We’ve helped thousands of clients bounce back in the face of hurricanes, pandemics, ice storms, and more. At CMIT Solutions, we stand ready to help any business affected by Hurricane Ida, both in the urgent short-term and in the long-term months to come. Need help responding to an urgent disaster-related issue? Looking for more information? Contact us today.