Otto the Texas Dog seen rescuing his kibble after Hurricane Harvey. No shame here.

If you’ve lived in South Florida for any given time, you’ve endured flooded streets, downed palms, broken roof tiles, and power outages for hours. But this week was gravely different. For many, Hurricanes Irma and Harvey lived up to their devastating hype. Towns were decimated and lives tragically lost. And now, oppressive Florida heat continue to claim victims. Facebook provides a helpful “mark yourself safe” feature for those in affected disaster areas to let loved ones know they’re OK with just one click. But what about businesses?

Many of the South Florida and Houston-area companies who endured the recent hurricanes and came out virtually unscathed, have been oddly silent. And not because they’re without power. Many corporations are trained to highlight only positive news, and bury the negative in fear of losing business.

Human life is irreplaceable; so no comparisons are being made or even vaguely implied here. But after we’ve been assured that the people who work them are safe and well, isn’t it human nature to wonder about how those business partners, vendors, and customer facilities in the affected areas have fared? And how their tragedy may affect other businesses?

The devastation Harvey and Irma caused in some areas is irrevocable. So then is it callous, uncaring, even inhumane to ask a vendor “How will this delay my shipment of hair care products?” Um, you bet it is. But what if your question is about a medicine required to keep your elderly parent well?

Then take it off the personal, and apply it at a business level. Let’s say you’ve got a huge shipment date to hit and you’re waiting for that last manufactured part from Houston. So where do we draw the line on when to ask business-related questions to our disaster-affected business contacts upon whom we rely?

I believe the “We’re OK,” “Power’s Back On,” and “Temporarily Closed” social media announcements are vital and widely under used. There’s no shame or blame when your company loses your power, experiences water damage in the factory, or needs to delay shipments as employees return from same havens and get their personal lives in order after a disaster. We are genuinely concerned about your staff’s well being.

However, you should Tweet about the ordeal when the storm passes. Did it miss you? Great, let us know. Show photos on Facebook and Instagram when you make it back. We’re glad you’re well. We’ll make alternative plans to source materials and services until you’re back in business. And we appreciate you sparing us the shame or discomfort of having to ask how this will affect us going forward.

Corporate Disaster Notification Steps

  1. Before the storm, email customers and business partners that you are/may be in the affected area. Apprise them of how (if at all) this will or might affect them.
  2. Make plans for unforeseen disasters when possible. Set up a back up plans (e.g. satellite shipping points).
  3. After the storm, provide updates to the world ASAP on your safety. Post on social media using your cell phone data if you have to. The sooner the better.
  4. Let all know if production or shipment will be delayed and best guess estimates, if servers are down, if storefronts are accessible, if eCommerce is working.