The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the leading group for the evaluation of climate change, offers fact-based analyses on climate change and its environmental and socio-economic impacts. The IPCC has recognized the impending effects of climate change, including sea level rise, more dangerous weather in hurricane-prone zones, escalating drought threats, and more severe flooding.
NASA states that “The rate of global sea level rise in the last decade is nearly double that of the last century,” and “the number of record-high temperature events in the U.S. has been increasing, while the number of record-low temperature events has been decreasing, since 1950.”
Anyone who experienced Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast U.S. or the recent flooding across Great Britain knows that those are examples of extreme weather. Communities across the U.S. are beginning to deal with the results of climate change. The impact of rising sea levels means flooding for some, drought for others, and bad weather for all as global wind and water currents drastically change course.
“We know the sea levels are rising, and it’s going to continue to happen and actually get worse,” says Nancy Schneider, a sustainability and sea level rise adaptation consultant based in Florida’s Miami-Dade county. “People may say ‘The oceans have fluctuated throughout the history of the world.’ And while that is true, 100,000 years ago humans didn’t have 15-story condominiums on the beach, or roadways near the ocean, or the infrastructure of airports or ports. That’s where the dilemma comes in.”
Schneider has more than 15 years of experience as a sustainability expert in local government, communications, and business development. She has authored many articles on climate change and served as the chair of the Green Advisory Task Force for Delray Beach, Fla. Schneider offers eight concrete tips to help small businesses prepare for the threats of flooding, high wind, severe temperatures, and severe drought. Climate-change concerns and solutions for any small business include understanding risk, where to obtain information, simple precautions, flood and hurricane insurance, making a business continuity plan, locating a regional hazard map, and designing for climate change. It’s one of the many small-business challenges that companies face.
1. Know Your Risks. “Are you in a flood zone?” poses Schneider. “What kind of flood zone is that? Are you able to move or elevate your business? If you have a delivery business or if you get products shipped in, are the roadways going to be flooded for deliveries? Are you in an area subject to fire? Or tornadoes? What would happen if your business was flooded out? Can your employees get to work?”
2. Consider Disaster Insurance. “If a big gust of wind comes along and blows away your roof and it rains in your building, hurricane insurance covers that,” Schneider explains. “But if the hurricane blows your door open and a big wave floods out your business, that is covered by flood insurance. Here in Florida, some insurers don’t offer hurricane coverage, so the state funded a program called Citizen’s Insurance. But there are new companies that offer insurance to the previously hard to insure, though flood insurance is getting expensive. You can self-insure if you have a group of people who are willing to pool their money. And there’s always Lloyds of London.”
3. Get a Hazard Map. “A hazard map highlights areas that are vulnerable to particular hazards,” Schneider says, “whether that’s flooding or fire or wind or landslides. By mapping out those hazard areas, maybe a company that has several locations can store backup documents or receive deliveries at the safer location.”
4. Be Prepared. “Where are your records, papers, and computer backups?” she suggests. “Do you have computer backup files or hard copies of documents? Check all the inventory, making sure it isn’t something that could get flooded out. Buy generators for power outages. Buy a car charger for your cell phone because without electricity, you can’t charge your phone. Fill up your car’s gas tank. Get bottled water and batteries. Fill up the bathtub with water. In a disaster, you may need every source of potable water you can get. Buy extra canned goods and groceries. A florist I know lost all his flowers in Katrina, but he was able to keep in contact with his clients because his cell phone was charged. During Sandy I suggested that my clients park their car in the middle spot of a middle deck of a parking garage. That way their cars weren’t flooded out. Being prepared is a great selling point for any business.”
5. Find the Right Info. “Check the FEMA website to know whether or not you’re in a flood zone,” Schneider says. “FEMA is revising the maps, so you may not be in one now but you may be eventually. Also, the Department of Environmental Protection has a lot of information available for both homeowners and business owners on lowering risk and understanding what your vulnerabilities are and how you can plan around them. FEMA has a lot of great information on its website, too.”
6. Make a Business Continuity Plan. “A business continuity plan identifies a company’s exposure to various threats,” Schneider explains. “By identifying them, you can plan for those threats through prevention, or, if necessary, recovery. The report will make various recommendations depending on your business. That helps a business maintain a competitive edge as well.”
7. Design for Climate Change. “Paint your roof silver to reflect the heat, not absorb it,” Schneider advises. “Anywhere you can get off the grid, like using solar panels for power, is good. Rain barrels are useful if you’re in an area subject to drought. After Hurricane Andrew, Dade County put new standards in place for building codes. That included impact-resistant windows against wind, which also prevent burglary. They are unbreakable up to 150 miles per hour. All new construction of buildings and sidewalks has to be raised 15 feet to prevent flooding. There are many materials that can tolerate the effects of rain, wind, and heat. You can also landscape or set the rake of the building to where trees allow sun in the winter and shade in summer.”
8. Whom Do You Trust? “Some people don’t believe climate change is happening,” Schneider comments. “To them I respond, ‘climate change isn’t a belief, it’s science.’ I always ask, ‘where are you getting your information? I’m getting my information from the NOAA and different government and scientific sources.’ If you don’t believe them, whom do you believe? Glenn Beck? What are his credentials?”
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