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Focus on Manatee: Here’s how to prepare your business for the next natural disaster

Is Manatee County ready for the next hurricane? Emergency responders are counting on it

Manatee County Emergency Operations Center holds their annual hurricane drill for multi-agency response.
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Manatee County Emergency Operations Center holds their annual hurricane drill for multi-agency response.

Summer is almost here, and that means fun in the sun, beach days and pool parties for a lot of us.

However, it also marks the beginning of the most dangerous time of the year: hurricane season.

And while our destination has been fortunate in avoiding the worst of these superstorms, it is imperative to make sure that you and your business are ready in the event of a disaster.

The Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau has spent countless hours creating an Emergency Communications Plan that details how we will communicate with our tourism industry partners and media before, during and after a disaster.

And while we are always here to assist our industry members during times of adversity, there are steps everyone should take to make sure their business is prepared as well.

Although every disaster can strike differently, your business can be better prepared if you plan ahead and put emergency procedures in place.

According to FEMA, roughly 40 percent of businesses do not re-open after a disaster largely because of their lack of preparedness. This is not a fate that we want any of our industry partners to suffer.

John Drobecker, an Anna Maria resident, explains why he created Saturday's trolley run up and down Anna Maria Island. The event provided much-needed support for business hit hard by red tide that continues to hold its grip on the Manatee coast.

It is also worth noting that disasters can come in many forms. Last year, red tide did more financial damage to our coastal businesses than any hurricane has done in recent years.

And not all disasters are natural — businesses should also account for human created disasters such as mass shootings, oil spills and terrorist attacks. When creating your emergency plan, be sure to include plans for these types of disasters as well.

As a reminder, if you operate a business in Manatee County there are many resources you can utilize to make sure that it doesn’t go under.

One of the best is the Manatee County Government Business Recovery Directory, which is an online emergency information exchange network that helps local businesses leverage resources from one another.

Leila Martini, an expert on the use of social media in emergency management, leads a lively discussion with about 40 community leaders.

By signing up, businesses can have their products or services considered for purchase during recovery operations, thus keeping federal recovery dollars local. This directory is free to any business in Manatee County and can be used for any type of disaster. Learn more about this on Manatee County’s business recovery page at mymanatee.org.

During a crisis, especially if you are an accommodations business, you may receive a call from a group of Manatee County employees called ESF-18. These employees exist to help assist you with your recovery and identify what businesses have resources that can help others in need.

They also may be out in the field working directly with businesses that have been impacted by a crisis. For instance, last year these employees manned an office on Anna Maria Island for business owners to visit and get information on what types of resources they could apply for while business was down during red tide.

FEMA public service announcement for emergency preparation.

It is so important to understand that disaster preparedness isn’t a necessity for just tourism-related businesses. All businesses and homes should do everything they can to prepare for a potential emergency, whether that be stocking up on dry goods for hurricane season or putting away an emergency fund in case of red tide.

And while the employees of Manatee County are always here to help in case of a disaster, nothing compares to planning ahead.

Elliott Falcione is the executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and can be reached at Elliott.Falcione@BACVB.com or 941-729-9177, ext. 3940.

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