10 things every office tenant should be doing after Harvey

This article by Jay Wall first appeared in the Houston Business Journal.

After the historic flooding from Hurricane Harvey, many of us spent so much energy dealing with the personal effects of the storm that we don’t even want to think about its implications for our business.

That’s a huge mistake.

While it isn’t especially likely that a major hurricane will be striking Houston again in the immediate future, this storm has lessons about business preparedness for every company. Those lessons apply to disasters other than just hurricanes or even floods and apply just as much to those companies that dodged this particular bullet. There are also things you need to do for your business today or the next disaster won’t even matter.



  • Stop relying on existing flood maps. FEMA’s 100-year flood maps missed 75 percent of Houston flood damage claims between 1999 and 2009, according to a recent study conducted by Rice University and Texas A&M.
  • <li>Backup power. Make sure your building has a backup generator located above the ground floor. It needs to be natural gas powered, not dependent on clean diesel or potentially spotty deliveries. Being located on a dual power grid would also help. </li>
    <li>Learn about your building's elevator. Check the location of your building’s elevator mechanism and electrical switching gear. These need to be above the first floor, certainly not in a basement without “submarine” doors. If they are in the basement, seriously consider moving during your next lease cycle.</li>
    <li>Check your lease. Document, document, document. Specifically, know the difference between the “service interruption” clause and the “casualty” clause. Check the timelines.</li>
    <li>Check your “Business Interruption” insurance coverage. Are you covered for the future? Do you have claims now? Get professional help for your current claims. Get solid professional advice about insuring for the future. </li>
    <li>Don’t put off worrying about the next flood. You can't assume another “500-year flood” is 500 years away. For a variety of reasons, this was the third 500-year flood in Houston in three years. There is such a thing as a 1,000-year flood and Mother Nature may just be warming up. </li>
    <li>Review your disaster recovery plan. What went wrong? What went right? What went right but could have gone better?</li>
    <li>Build a business continuity plan. A business continuity plan is different than a disaster recovery plan. If a disaster takes your office offline for a significant time, what’s your contingency? Many 21st-century businesses can operate virtually. Can yours?</li>
    <li>Make the right calls. Get your accounts receivable people on the phone. Cash flow today is critical for recovery. </li>
    <li>Get your salespeople on the phone. Depending on your sales cycle, weeks lost now mean a cash flow pinch in several months. </li>

    Bottom line: Learn the lessons, plan accordingly, and get back to work.