By Michelle Hankes
Colonial-Floral Fascinations is a lovely little shop on a lovely little street in Georgetown, South Carolina. Front Street is picturesque with boutiques and restaurants within view of Winyah Bay, where several rivers come together. When you walk into the narrow flower store, the walls are decorated with beautiful creations: wreathes, bouquets, and vases. You are greeted by the proprietor, Jeanette Ard, with a smile and an offer to look around at your leisure.
After Hurricane Matthew, water flooded through Front Street, reaching as high as a foot in the store. Jeanette proudly pointed to where the water came to on a wall. "I was the first store to reopen after the storm. Most of us around here just moved in last year. I wanted to get back to work as fast as I could."
(Georgetown Flood photo caption: Front Street in Georgetown, SC, saw repeated flooding after Hurricane Matthew.)
Jeanette has experience in reopening her small business after a disaster. On September 25, 2013, a fire tore through the 700 block of Georgetown where many businesses, including Jeanette's resided. Jeanette experienced a double loss because she lived above the shop.
"I had to rebuild from scratch," said Jeanette. "I had some insurance to help, but I needed to open my doors fast because this flower shop is my livelyhood." She credits her ability to do that to being organized and having a plan. "Some people didn't. They aren't here now."
According to statistics from FEMA, over 40% of small businesses that experience a disaster are able to recover, and another 25% close within a year of the disaster. With the loss of these businesses comes a loss of jobs and revenue for the city. The Red Cross, while focused on individuals and families in disaster response, recognized that companies also needed preparedness tools to build community resiliency.
(700 Georgetown Fire Caption: In 2013, several small businesses were destroyed in Georgetown in a large fire.)
The American Red Cross Ready Rating program is a free, self-guided program designed to help businesses, organizations and schools become better prepared for emergencies. Members complete a ReadyGo or ReadyAdvance assessment and have access to tools, tips and best practices to help improve their level of preparedness.
The process is simple: A business can go to ReadyRating.org and follow the steps to sign up for free. There is a check list of over 100 questions that pinpoint weaknesses and strengths in a company's operations and planning, then a template is provided for an OSHA-approved Emergency Action Plan is created for the business. Tips and suggestions on trainings and other resources are provided to better prepare a business for emergencies. ReadyRating can be used by schools and churches as well as for-profit companies.
(Jeanette Ard Photo Caption: Jeanette Ard shares her story of rebuilding with Red Cross staff member Michelle Hankes.)
However, according to Jeanette, the most important thing you must do when disaster strikes is to remain positive, not only for yourself but everyone around you. In the aftermath of the hurricane, she can be found passing out single roses to her shop neighbors. "I'm the one who keeps everyone's spirits up. We'll all get through this together. And we'll all get through the next hurricane."