2019-10-23 06:11:15

With the approach of Tropical Storm Nestor last week, it was a stark reminder for local business owners about the importance of having a disaster plan in place.

With the approach of Tropical Storm Nestor last week, it was a stark reminder for local business owners about the importance of having a disaster plan in place.

And business continuity planning was the focus of Friday workshops co-sponsored by the Northeast Florida Regional Council, International Economic Development Council, Flagler County Emergency Management, Flagler County Department of Economic Opportunity and Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. 

Jimmy Sayres, director of compliance and procurement at Christian Care Ministry and Ray Rodriguez, senior manager of logistics, were tasked by their board of directors to develop policies and procedures that work not only for their national headquarters in Melbourne, Florida, but at their office in Colorado Springs, Colorado — and for their remote workers as well — by June 2020. 

Upon learning of the free workshops, the pair traveled to Flagler County for an opportunity to learn best practices from facilitator Terrie Battuello, chief of business and economic development for the Port of Everett in Washington and a member of the International Economic Development Council. 

After completing a two-hour workshop, Sayres and Rodriguez said they felt confident about creating a plan.

“We’ve been working on this already and this gives us more insight,” said Rodriguez. “We have to ensure the plan is clear, enforceable and realistic.”

Closer to home, Tom Hellman, president of Volusia/Flagler SCORE, pledged to create a workshop based on risk and disaster preparedness and incorporate risk mitigation into the process while working with business owners.

Flagler County Commission Chairman Donald O’Brien, who also attended the workshop, said he has seen the benefits of pre-planning and the consequences that can result from a lack of preparation.

“The likelihood of a business surviving after a disaster is greatly increased if proper planning is done before an event,” said O’Brien. “I am pleased that our Economic Opportunity Department and Emergency Management Departments have teamed up to provide our local businesses with the tools for proper disaster recovery planning. This is a valuable service for all of our Flagler County businesses, regardless of size.”

From securing the property and having a clear crisis communication plan, to formulating a detailed post-disaster plan of action and backing up files of information, Battuello says it’s about resiliency and consistency across the nation when creating and implementing continuity plans.

Directing workshop attendees to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Ready Business toolkit at ready.gov, Battuello says creating a plan can seem overwhelming but having a plan is critical post-disaster.

“Consistency and resiliency for business continuity is a whole specialization. For economic developers, we’re really concerned about what’s called a ‘shock to the economy’ when you have a disaster,” said Battuello.

“It creates a ripple effect through the community because it’s not just the period of the actual event, it’s how much time it takes for that business to go from being closed for the event until it starts operating again,” he said. “The at-risk group is the small business and in Flagler, 66% of the businesses are small businesses, under five employees and the next 25% is under 50. So if only your national tenants come back, it’s not enough to create an economy that’s resilient.”

Sean Lahav, resiliency coordinator for the Northeast Florida Regional Council works with seven counties and 26 municipalities, says planning ahead is the smart thing to do.

“The entire state of Florida is vulnerable to coastal hazards and storm events and I think that, naturally, if you’re going to operate a business in Florida, it’s needed to look at these issues to protect your business and the economy as a whole.”

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