CEO Corner

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When Natural Disasters Strike, Local Businesses Play an Essential Role

By: Graham Weihmiller
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    CEO Corner

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    Graham Weihmiller

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What role do local businesses play when natural disasters strike?  In my experience, a very big role. 

When natural disasters strike, the first priority has to be saving lives and providing water, food and shelter to those affected.  When emergency response turns to recovery and restoration, business leaders can sometimes find themselves fending for themselves to get their businesses back up-and-running.  Given the essential role they play in recovery, policymakers might want to revisit and bolster specific programs to get local businesses get back to business.  Here are a few reasons why:

Local businesses provide employees with a safe haven and a sense of normalcy when perhaps nothing else in their lives is normal.  Changes – especially unexpected and rapid changes, for example, losing a home due to flooding, create significant stress – and having a place away from it all can give the employee a much-needed reprieve.  Getting back to work also provides a sense of productivity and forward progress when efforts to restore their personal lives might be frustratingly slow.

Local businesses also provide much-needed products and services that are in dire need when natural disasters strike.  Many forms of natural disasters, especially hurricanes and floods, destroy personal and business inventories and disrupt normal activities.  This is exactly when the local population needs what local businesses can provide.  And the more local businesses are up-and-operating, the less likely it is that any single business can gouge desperate customers with exorbitant pricing.

Additionally, even the best-insured victims of natural disasters are going to need to spend a lot of money to get their lives back to normal.  For starters, most will have deductibles and funds from insurance company reimbursements, which even if approved, may take a long time to access.  Getting people back to their jobs quickly enables them to earn money to fund their own restoration efforts more quickly. 

In my experience, business leaders are compassionate and they care deeply for their team.  While government, non-profit organizations, and faith-based organizations all provide much-needed support to victims of natural disasters, business leaders and colleagues provide an important additional pillar of emotional support. 

For the reasons above, I might suggest that policymakers put more focus on specific programs to help local business owners rapidly restart their businesses after natural disasters.  Enhanced planning and coordination between local government and the business community regarding disaster recovery may be the perfect place to start. 

As I’m writing this, Hurricane Harvey is causing heartbreaking havoc in southern Texas. At BNI, we’re passionate about supporting businesses through this historic disaster, and other similar instances worldwide. Through our BNI Cares:  About Texas initiative, we’re helping local businesses get back to doing what they do best:  serving their local communities. To learn more about the initiative, or to contribute if you feel inclined, please see here

The road to recovery will be long for many businesses in the southern US, but BNI will stand alongside them on every step of the journey.