Mike Hodges told Liberty County Chamber of Commerce members their No. 1 priority in preparing their businesses for a disaster or emergency is to help keep their employees safe.
Hodges, director of the Liberty County Emergency Management Agency, said many businesses folded after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and pointed out that many of the people employed by those businesses never returned there.
“You take 500 people and what they do off the tax digest … and you’ve got a tremendous blow to your community,” he said.
Hodges spoke Thursday during the chamber’s Progress Through People Luncheon at Century Link’s meeting facility on Patriot’s Trail in Hinesville. This month’s event was sponsored by the Liberty County Health Department.
Hodges told area employers they should inform their employees about what to do to prepare in the event of hurricanes or other emergencies.
“Tell them where the evacuation routes are,” he said. “Encourage them to have a personal preparedness plan.”
The EMA director also recommends that employers develop a post-disaster communications strategy. They can designate a contact person to communicate with suppliers, customers and employees, he said. Hodges said employers and employees should know where the others will be during an evacuation and when they will return.
Hodges also recommended business people review their insurance coverage each year, adding that some properties cannot get flood insurance if located within a flood plain. He said business owners can contact the National Flood Insurance Program by visiting www.floodsmart.gov.
Hodges said employers also can get business interruption insurance to help cover operating expenses — such as utilities — and receive income compensation during the time a business temporarily is closed after a disaster.
Along with keeping people safe, keeping information safe is another top priority, the EMA director said.
“Make backup copies of all tax, accounting, payroll and production records,” he said. “And if you can, digitize.”
Hodges said vital business records and information can be recorded digitally and stored offsite to ensure valuable data is protected.
The EMA director said business owners also should make their buildings as safe as possible by installing impact-resistant windows and door systems to withstand high winds. They also should hire a professional to evaluate a business’ roof to ensure it can weather a storm, he said.
“We also play a very vital role in disaster preparedness,” Liberty County Health Department Administrator Deidre Howell said. “Volunteers are very important for the community to spring back from a disaster.”
Howell said area businesses can help staff the Coastal Health District’s open dispensing sites during a pandemic or other health emergency. Public-health agencies dispense emergency medications to the public at these sites, she explained.
For more information on volunteering, call the Coastal Health District at 912-644-5802 or email email@example.com.
For general information on disaster preparedness, go to www.ready.gov.