The water isn't the only thing that Hurricane Irene is churning up. Businesses all along the Eastern seaboard are preparing to deal with the problems and opportunities the storm presents them.
“Two or three days before the storm hits, everybody is there [at stores] buying more than they need,” said Seddik Meziani, professor of finance and chair of Department of Economics and Finance at Montclair State University. “The supply and demand will be there, it is just going to be displaced from normal.”
These changes in supply and demand can equate to either a great opportunity for prepared businesses, or a big loss for those without the foresight. The key to avoiding the latter comes in preparation.
“First and foremost, we worry about our employees and their safety, secondly we worry about our facilities,” said Scott White, regional sales manager at Allied Building Products Corporation, a building materials distributor with locations in Florida. "Because we sell roofing materials and all kinds of building materials that would be needed after a disaster, we do try to anticipate and stock up in anticipation. Back in 2005 we had a lot of shortages because our manufacturers couldn’t keep up with the demand.”
Shortages are just one of the many problems businesses can face in a hurricane. Long lines and staffing problems can become realities in a crisis situation despite the best planning.
“We are talking about hurricane season well in advance of its arrival,” said Kim Jaeger, media and communication manager of Publix supermarkets in the Miami area. “We stock the store with hurricane supplies prior to and right at the start of hurricane season. Our associates are ready and willing to work. Many associates will work longer hours and many stores will staff shifts more heavily. Anything we can do to take care of our customers.”
As the hurricane hits, safety concerns trump business ones for store owners and workers.
“The safety of our associates is No. 1,” said Jaeger. “We allow our associates to take the time to secure their homes and make sure their families are safe. When the storm hits, we will shut down the store because we will not operate if it’s not safe for our associates or customers. As soon as we get the OK that's it is safe, we are bringing our associates in, knowing the community will need us.”
Regardless of the preparation, acts of nature rarely follow a plan. Understanding this principle may be the most important thing for business owners, according to experts.
“You need to hope for the best, but plan for the worst,” said John Venzon, president of AdvantaClean, a North Carolina-based emergency relief company. “Safety comes first when it comes to the big storms. We recommend you seek out and secure an emergency response plan, with all emergency numbers ready and preferably contacted before the storm. When a storm hits, resources can become constrained and you don’t want to be fifth in line to get your business back up and running.”
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