It’s been a tough start to the year for many Kiwi business owners as they look to recover from some of the most severe flooding the North Island has seen. 


The flooding has prompted the question, how ready is your business for a natural disaster? 

Before we delve into what you can do to help prepare, let’s look at how common and harmful natural disasters can be in New Zealand.  


How common are natural disasters in New Zealand? 

A common myth is that natural disasters, such as flooding, are uncommon. Let’s look at some facts.

  • More than $335m of extreme weather claims were reported in 2022, a new record for the country, according to the Insurance Council.
  • Last year was New Zealand’s warmest and wettest winter on record, according to NIWA.
  • About two thirds of New Zealand’s population lives in areas prone to flooding, according to the Royal Society of New Zealand.


We’ll cover some preparation tips to help you reduce the impact of a disaster, along with what to do when disaster strikes. New Zealand’s largest and biggest natural disaster (outside earthquakes) is flooding, so we’ll focus on that. 


Disaster planning: how to help prepare your small business for a disaster


Here are some essential elements of disaster planning. 


Carry out a risk assessment

 A risk assessment can help you to develop a response strategy before a natural disaster such as a flood occurs. First, inspect your premises, internally and externally, to see what areas may be at risk. For example, your basement could be vulnerable during a flood. As the saying goes, it’s best to plan for the worst and hope for the best. 


Pull together an emergency plan

You can find tips on how to do this here.You should already have a business continuity plan in place for other disasters (such as earthquakes or fires) and other issues (e.g., theft, cyberattacks). Make sure to review them regularly.


Consider what may be susceptible to flood damage

 What machinery and materials may be affected? What will be the effect on stock and vital equipment? Identify your business’s critical processes and functions and the resources needed to support them.


Keep visual records

Take photos and videos of the contents of your business for your records. Store this safely so you can access it from outside your business. This may help facilitate any claims process. Store this safely so you can access it from outside your business. This may  help facilitate any claims process. 

A common myth is that natural disasters, such as flooding, are uncommon

Plan your communication

Communication is vital when a disaster strikes. Create a clear communication path to talk to your staff and have appropriate messages ready to load on your website, so your customers will know what is happening. 


Train your staff
Ensure your staff are well versed in what to do in the case of an emergency. Have emergency kits prepared for staff, too. 


Talk to an insurance broker
Reach out to an insurance broker for expert advice and to ensure you have the right cover for your business. 

What business owners can do just before a disaster strikes

There isn’t always a warning before a disaster strikes, but if there is, there are some simple things you can do to help prepare. 


Ensure critical documentation is safe

Pack essential documents in portable, waterproof containers that can easily be moved to a safer place. Back up important data to a portable storage device and store it in a secure location or use cloud storage.


Move valuable and dangerous items

 Make sure they are high above the floor or take them to a safer location if possible. 


Communicate with your staff 

Talk about the evacuation of the premises and where they are going for safety. Agree on communication channels.

What business owners can do after disaster strikes


Be careful onsite

Damaged sites can be hazardous after a natural disaster. Only approach your premises once given the all-clear by the authorities. Even then, approach with caution.


Contact your insurance broker or insurer

Get in touch as soon as possible to set the claims process in motion. Take photos of any damage as soon as it is safe to do so, as it could help ease the claims assessment process.


Communicate with your customers 

Let customers know what’s happening through social media, emails, or even signs if it is safe to do so. Share when you expect to be open for business, any modified hours, or change in location. 


Contact staff 

Make sure they’re OK, see what help they need and keep them informed. Make a point of regularly asking about the wellbeing of staff following a crisis.


Be prepared and speak with your broker


Once you are up and running, take time to reflect on how well you and your staff responded and what you could have better prepared for.  


Be prepared and look at what you can do to minimise the possible impact. By knowing what to do when disaster strikes, you can recover sooner. 


A comprehensive disaster plan can mean fewer days out of business and better communication with customers. These processes can even help speed up the insurance claims process. Speak with your broker today to ensure you have the right cover for your business.  

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