Hurricane Sandy – How businesses can play a role in recovery

By Jeff Kaliner

When Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast last month, it caused a massive amount of destruction in numerous cities and communities, especially in New York and New Jersey. From widespread flooding and power outages to gas shortages and the leveling of entire neighborhoods and towns — the list of damage inflicted by the storm is long and requires an intensive recovery effort. Businesses in the affected areas are also dealing with additional problems, such as revenue loss, property damage, data loss and employee absenteeism due to hardship. That’s something we know firsthand, as several of our Power locations, including offices in Long Island and northern New Jersey, were hit directly by the storm. We were lucky and only had to deal with power outages and minimal damage to our offices, as well as the loss of a few days of business.

However, many others lost much more, and for a smaller business, that loss can be catastrophic. Likely to become the second-most expensive catastrophe in American history, behind only Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy has dealt a serious blow to thousands of business owners who must face the difficult question of where to start the rebuilding effort. For those of us in the home remodeling industry, we are also faced with the question of how to help our customers whose homes may have experienced damage on a number of levels. Luckily, there are resources out there for assistance, and a variety of tips to help get your business, customers and employees back on their feet:

Start from the ground up: If your business experienced physical damage due to flooding or loss of power, the obvious first step is to begin the literal cleanup process. It may seem like common sense, but the need to accurately assess the damage and evaluate approximate losses is an essential part of the rebuilding effort. If product, supplies or equipment were among insured losses, be sure to catalogue and keep itemized lists to refer to when filing claims. Once the real cleanup begins, take a look at OSHA’s website for helpful guides about how to keep employees safe during the recovery process. There are serious hazards, such as downed electrical wires and contaminated flood water, that employers need to be aware of.

Be a considerate employer: While getting your day-to-day operations back up and running is sure to be the highest priority, keep in mind that your employees may be struggling to return to normalcy as well. Be compassionate and offer assistance in whatever form you feel most comfortable — whether in the form of a catered lunch for those who are still without power and haven’t been able to grocery shop or cook for themselves, or even extra paid time off for employees who need to spend time working on repairing their homes. If your business was not affected, but close to an area that was hit hard by the hurricane, consider offering additional paid time off to those who offer to volunteer in storm-ravaged areas. Being mindful of your staff’s individual needs in such a time will come back to benefit your business in the form of employee retention.

Lend a hand to the community: For home remodeling companies, there are some no-brainer ways to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy — most obviously with donations of products or services. From organizing staff volunteer days and supply and clothing drives to providing a discount on repair and service calls, there are so many ways to get involved and improve the situation in every community. At the very least, advise customers to beware of unreliable vendors looking to take advantage of desperate homeowners, as it has been known to happen in the past. Share these tips via your website, e-blasts or social media channels, or consider incorporating educational materials into your current marketing collateral.

When a natural disaster on such a grand scale as this hits one region, it affects all of us. Whether your business was directly or indirectly impacted, it’s always a good idea to show your customers and employees that you support them in their times of need, and that you’re committed to protecting their home — often the single largest investment that most people will ever make.

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