Workshop helps businesses plan for natural disasters

Workshop helps businesses plan for natural disasters

Pictured (l-r) are CutlerBay Mayor Ed MacDougall; MickJones, EDC; Rafael Casals, Cutler Bay townmanager, and Dr.James A. Thomas, EDC board chair.

With the official start of hurricane season on June 1, the Beacon Council, Economical Development Council (EDC), Town of Cutler Bay and others joined forces to present a special workshop for area businesses to help them plan for natural disasters.

Around 100 people attended the meeting in the Council Chambers at Cutler Bay Town Hall from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday, June 13, to receive printed information and hear presentations from a number of speakers. Cutler Bay Mayor Ed MacDougall, town manager Rafael Casals and staff members attended.

Stephen Beatus, executive vice president for Economic Development of the Miami-Dade Beacon Council, explained in an interview before the meeting their purpose for arranging the workshop.

“The Beacon Council is hosting three events throughout the county — in the south, central and north part of the county — making sure that small businesses specifically are prepared for any potential disaster — hurricane, flood or any natural disaster that comes about,” Beatus said. “June 1 was the start of hurricane season so we thought it very appropriate to pass on this very valuable information that will not only allow companies to prepare for any potential disaster, but should one occur we will also have the opportunity to help small businesses through various programs that the state is sponsoring.

Workshop helps businesses plan for natural disasters

Mayor Ed MacDougalladdresses workshop attendees.

“We want to pass that information along as well. The purpose of this meeting is to make sure they pre-plan before an event, and if there is an event they know what to do post event in order to recover their business,” Beatus added.

The program was moderated by Jody Johnson, owner of ActionCOACH, a business coaching firm, who began with an overview of what constitutes a disaster for businesses, and by quoting a cautionary statistic for business owners to be aware of about plans and recoveries.

“Following a disaster, 90 percent of businesses fail within a year if they can’t resume operations in five days,” Johnson said.

Next, talking about safeguarding businesses in a variety of situations, Maria Johnston, the regional director of external affairs of AT&T Florida, who also is a board member of the Beacon Council, told attendees how they work closely with Florida Power and Light before and after a disaster to keep the lines of communication open and provide other needed services.

She urged business owners to maintain both corded phone systems and cell phones to be used after disasters, and to keep up-to-date records of their employee’s cell phone numbers so they can be reached during an emergency.She also explained how smartphones, with an adapter and software, can be used by businesses to process credit card purchases even if normal systems are not working after a disaster.

Robert McDougall, CEO of Choice One Companies, a co-sponsor of the event, spoke about how businesses can limit their risk with certain kinds of insurance, and the importance of “key man” insurance and succession planning.

Jody Johnson then talked about creating a preparedness and disaster checklist for businesses, and determining risk by considering potential hazards and the business’s vulnerability.

“Every plan is different because every organization and structure is different,” Johnson said. “For every critical function, every system for maintaining continuity must be in place.”

Last to speak was Stephen Beatus of the Beacon Council, who spoke about the Bridge Loan Program and other ways small businesses can get help in their recovery process. He told of resources that are available from Miami-Dade County and within the community.

Mick Jones, EDC CEO and executive director, said he was pleased with the event.

“The Beacon Council and Economic Development Council have co-sponsored together to bring this important business awareness workshop for the hurricane season,” Jones said. “This is the first of a number of meetings we will hold jointly with the Beacon Council.”

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