The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) states that about 40 percent of small businesses do not reopen after a major disaster. A savvy owner should confront the potential of a disaster and be prepared. A temporary interruption is usually due to a smaller storm, affecting the business with the loss of electricity and/or water for a brief period. Such local storms usually cause similar problems at the home of clients or employees, so many are unable to keep their appointments. Disruptive as these situations are, most businesses can weather them with minor inconvenience. However, a major hurricane causes such destruction that its effects can be catastrophic on businesses as well as on communities. The area may become inaccessible for an extended period of time and the focus is on survival. The challenge you face will probably lie somewhere between these two extremes.
States along the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida and the Eastern seaboard know all too well the effects of a major hurricane. To minimize the damage when faced with a hurricane, companies need a way to give employees access to information resources even when their workplace is shut down.
What has been a surprising finding is that some clients want to be able to use spa services. It may be a way of releasing stress, or it may be a much needed luxury, a respite from the surrounding horror. So, what are you to do when you have no electricity and no water for 10, 15, and 20 or more days? Obviously, if you have major structural damage, you are in no position to offer services. But, if your building is solid and you expect it to stand up to the weather reasonably well, you have to decide whether you will prepare to be open, stay home, or even leave the area.
To prepare, the first major consideration is purchasing a generator to provide essential electricity and it is tax deductible. You need to get an expert to work with you in evaluating just how large a generator you need, depending on what appliances you want to be able to use simultaneously. If you want to run your a/c, you are talking about a very large generator, and this may not be a good idea. With the generator, you have to consider the installation, automatic switching and fuel. If there is natural gas available in your area, that may be the way to go; otherwise, you will have to provide storage tanks for the amount of fuel you will need.
The second consideration is the storage of a supply of water. This can be done in 1, 2½, and five gallon bottles or if running out of water is a frequent occurrence in your area, you might consider installing a larger permanent water tank.
Beyond that, your imagination and generosity has no bounds as to what you can do to provide for customers and visitors. Even in the midst of chaos clients are grateful to have a place to go and relax and find support and/or solitude. Are you disaster ready?
Pietra Lee Thomas, aesthetician and owner of A Day of Delight Spa, understands how quickly a storm can arrive and the need to be prepared. In 2004 she had the privilege of being in the only recorded location to have two major hurricanes make a landfall in the same place in the same season. Her home and day spas were both severely damaged. Hurricane Francis was the first one, going right over her community. A three county area was left very badly damaged with most of its residential areas without power for weeks. A Day of Delight Spas was without power for one week.
Pietra and her staff immediately opened their doors to the community offering hot showers, meals, spa services and quite simply the opportunity to escape from what had happened to everyone. It became a meeting place to unwind. Three weeks and one hour later, hurricane Jean made landfall in the exact same spot, and completely devastated an area that had not had a chance to recover from Francis. Her community was under the control of the National Guard for more than a month. Throughout this time her spa stayed open and available to not only the community but also all the wonderful people that came to her area from all around the U.S. and Canada again giving them meals, hot showers, and a place to escape the tragedy from which everyone was recovering.
Pietra is proud of her staff, all of whom continued to work, wearing a huge smile and ready to spoil their guests even though some went back to a home with no electricity. Pietra continued to pay her staff on days that the spa had to be closed for repair. This year Pietra has put extra funds aside to be able to do even more for the community if another hurricane hits the Treasure Coast of Florida. Pietra’s advice to other owners is to set some funds aside to be able to pay your staff to retain them and to be available to the community by offering a haven from the outside world when the disaster is cleaned up. The people you help will remember and be extremely grateful. Pietra may be proud of her staff, but we should all be proud of Pietra and her staff.
Other Potential Crises
What if the emergency is not a storm but the passing away of the spa owner? In January of 2006 the employees of The Beauty Resort in Eagle River, Wis., were faced with this challenge. The spa manager was supposed to have a meeting with owner Frank Berg on Saturday and he never showed up. After multiple phone attempts, she went to his house out of concern only to find that Frank had passed away. As a result the Beauty Resort’s doors closed after 15 years and over 20 employees were left to mourn. Frank’s funeral took place and all had an opportunity to celebrate the life of Frank Berg. One of the staff members, Tiffany Krueger, cosmetologist and employee since she was 16 years old, knew that Berg would not want his dream of The Beauty Resort to die with him.
Tiffany 24 years old at the time took the initiative and purchased the spa. The Beauty Resort re-opened after three weeks, thanks to much of the original Beauty Resort team. Tiffany says her decision to purchase was out of admiration for her boss and love of the industry. She felt that there was no other choice for her but to continue the legacy that Berg had built, to service the clients, and to work with the Beauty Resort team that came to be a family
Since purchasing it and updating services and products, business has been progressively better and clearly successful. Tiffany says this life has taught her a lesson: to have an action plan for your own life and for your career. You never know what tomorrow will bring. She not only has ideas and goals for her business but knows that she must have a PLAN B just in case something does happen!
It’s not about “will it happen?”
It’s about WHEN it will happen!
10 Ways You can be Disaster Prepared
1. Identify Your Risk
What are the hazards where you work? Find out what natural or human caused disasters pose a risk for you. Do you live near a flood plain, an earthquake fault, or in a high fire danger area? Are you prepared for an unexpected human-made disaster that can strike any time? Does your neighborhood or community have a disaster plan? Contact your Local Office of Emergency Services - have their number easily accessible.
2. Create an Employee/Family Disaster Plan
Your work family needs a plan that tells everyone where to meet if you have to evacuate; who you’ve identified as an out-of-state “family contact”; and how to get emergency information to and from your community.
3. Practice Your Disaster Plan
After you have met with your employees and written your plan - practice it. Start by having spa members meet at a designated spot outside your business - like you would after a fire or after the shaking stops.
Know how to respond in the event of any disaster — whether to stay put indoors, or whether to evacuate your neighborhood by car. If your employees need to evacuate, know the proper evacuation procedures and routes. Is it safe to stay in the building? Is there anything you need to do to protect
4. Build a Disaster Supply Kit for Your Spa
You may be stranded in your spa and have to be self-sufficient until help arrives. You need to have a disaster kit. The first 72 hours after a major emergency or disaster are crucial. Electricity, gas, water, telephones, and cell phones may not be working.In addition, public safety services such as police and fire departments will be busy handling more serious situations. Be prepared and self-sufficient. The minimum supplies you need should provide the essentials for three days.
5. Emergency Supplies Partial Checklist
• Water - one gallon per person per day (do not forget you may have clients in the spa that you need to take care for)
• Water purification kit
• First aid kit, freshly stocked
• Canned Food
• Can opener (non-electric)
• Portable radio, flashlight, and spare batteries
• Essential medications (personal use)
• Fire extinguishers
• Large plastic trash bags for waste; tarps and rain ponchos
• Bar soap and liquid detergent
• Feminine hygiene supplies
• Knife or razor blades
• Plastic knives, spoons, forks
• Paper plates and cups
• Camping stove for outdoor cooking (Caution: before using fire to cook, make sure there are no gas leaks; never use charcoal indoors as the fumes are deadly)
• Broom, shovel
• Adjustable wrench for turning off gas
• Plastic tape, staple gun, and sheeting for window replacement
Also, keep in mind your suppliers may be temporarily forced to shut down - have extra stock on hand.
6. Don’t Forget Those with Special Needs
Your clients may be in the building when disaster strikes. Infants, seniors, and those with special needs must be taken care of.
7. Learn CPR and First Aid
Contact your local chapter of the American Red Cross today and get trained on basic first aid and CPR. Your training could save the life of a loved one, neighbor, client, or employee following a disaster.
8. Eliminate Hazards in the Workplace
You must secure the contents of your home or office to reduce hazards, especially during shaking from an earthquake or from an explosion.
9. Understand Post 9/11 Risks
Disaster preparedness must now account for man-made disasters as well as natural ones. Knowing what to do during an emergency is an important part of being prepared and may make all the difference when seconds count.
10. Get Involved
Volunteer, be responsible donate blood, join a local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), educate other surrounding businesses, or volunteer with your local American Red Cross.
Take Action Today and bear responsibility for being prepared.
Emergency preparedness is a topic we cannot dismiss. Your business means so much to you, your employees, and your community. You provide important services. You also provide jobs, pay taxes, and spend money in your community. If you are not prepared to respond to the challenge of a disaster then you will be the victim that requires the assistance of others. Whether it is Mother Nature or a life storm, have a Plan B or in some cases you may be working on Plan C or D. But by having an action plan for when the storms of life happen, you can save your business and your loved ones. Be prepared!
Denise R. Fuller is a licensed aesthetician, Australian-trained beauty therapist and certified by the State of Florida to teach and certify therapists in body wrapping. She is a contributing writer to several aesthetic trade magazines. She is also the co-founder of Florida Aesthetic Network, a networking group that meets quarterly in Florida and offers free education. Her passion is to provide a higher level of education for the professional in the spa industry.For more information please contact her at 888-566-4747.