If you run a company, ask yourself this question: After a major hurricane, could you get your business started back up again within 14 days?
        If the answer is no, your company’s chances for survival are slim.
        This was just one of the frightening facts revealed at the Beaufort Area Chamber of Commerce             “Business 4 Breakfast” event, held at the Technical College of the Lowcountry on April 26.
        It all started off pleasantly enough, with fresh bagels and coffee and an appearance by a celebrity guest, meteorologist Mike Siedel of The Weather Channel. Seidel talked about his experiences with hurricanes – Katrina in particular – then lightened things up a bit with a “Weather Channel 25th Anniversary Bloopers” presentation.
        Then came the scary part: a presentation by The Tempestuous Trio, otherwise known as Buz Boehm, William Winn and Steve Glenn. These guys are working on Beaufort County’s disaster recovery plan.
        Much of the county’s plan deals with large-scale R & R – rebuilding and reimbursement. When the plan is done, we’ll have a coordinated approach to putting our community back together, along with well-defined financial procedures so we can document what we spend in a way that meets FEMA’s arcane requirements. This way, local governments can move into action and not dilly-dally with the details.
        But businesses, you will be on your own for a while.
        Steve, the county’s disaster recovery consultant, put it to the audience bluntly: “Businesses have to be up and running in 14 days, or they’re out of business.”
        Steve knows what he’s talking about, because he was with the FEMA Region Four office in Atlanta. As a former branch chief for the southeast, he worked on the recovery for the 2004 hurricanes in Florida, as well as post-Katrina Mississippi.
        Buz, our county’s public services director, grew up in Louisiana and has family in New Orleans. He pointed out that before Katrina, there were around 20,000 businesses in the city. Now there are 2,500.
So what’s a business to do?
        Come up with your own disaster recovery plan. If you need help with disaster recovery planning for your business, the Small Business Administration office at USCB is a good resource.
Keep in mind that after the disaster, as Steve Glenn said, “There will be a fundamental shift in economics.” So you won’t be able to go back to business as usual.
        Take employees, for example. Most families won’t be able to rebuild homes or rent, so workers might end up living 100 miles away – and eventually might choose to work closer to where they live.
As for your business model, you might not be able to do what you used to do, or sell what you used to sell.
        We’re ahead of the game here in the Lowcountry. Beaufort is the only county in South Carolina with a disaster recovery plan, and the surrounding counties are working on a joint recovery plan that will complement ours.
        Our infrastructure will be rebuilt, and people will be able to return eventually.
But chances are the most of the businesses you know and love won’t be able to make it through the recovery period following a major disaster.
        Hurricanes don’t just destroy houses, they destroy people’s hopes and dreams. But those, too, can come back to us.