By: Denise Swafford, Nexstar Network Training and Development Manager

I’ve seen a lot of activity about the recent Super Storm Sandy and the devastation she has caused. I wanted to share my personal experiences in dealing with these types of natural disasters in hopes that it might help someone that is going through struggles wondering what to do now.

First, try to stay positive. Your attitude as a leader is so important. Every move you make is being watched by the rest of your team and your community.  They need reassurance that everything is going to be OK.   By now, hopefully you’ve heard from your team, but if not – your people have to be your first priority.  Make sure you know what your peoples’ needs are.  You need to take care of your people so that you can get your people back to work with their head in the game as soon as possible.  If they need help cleaning up their yards, repairing roof damage, etc. – hire someone to help them with that stuff so they can get back to work.

Second – if your facility was flooded or damaged- reach out to vendors or relationships you have your community to see if they will allow you to use space in their buildings to operate out of until you can get back up and operational. Vendors have been generous enough to allow some companies to utilize office staff, offer extended terms, utilize office equipment such as phones, copiers, fax, computers, etc.  Third, if you lost trucks due to flooding, reach out to leasing companies such as Enterprise to lease vehicles on temporary basis.  They have been known to work with companies in the past that have experienced Acts of God and offer generous payment terms which allowed companies to get back up on their feet quicker.

Next, get involved with FEMA – offer to help them set up their trailers, run their plumbing, electrical, hook up their HVAC units. Make friends with them. They can’t refer you exclusively, but they can put you at the top of their list of companies they recommend. Also, remember, cash is king – once customers start calling – they will ask you to bill their insurance company – instead offer them financing through a company such as GE – perhaps even use 12 months terms.  This gives the homeowner up to 12 months to resolve any issues with their insurance company and you get paid right away.

Once you are in a neighborhood – be prepared to stay there the entire day if necessary. Have flyers or door hangers that you hand out (hand out – being the key word – don’t just put it on the door – knock on the door and talk to people letting them know you are in the neighborhood). Remember to show empathy that you understand what they are going through and you were just at their neighbor’s house and wanted to stop by and see if they could use any help as well.

Be prepared to maximize every day. I’ve seen other members post very generous messages that they are willing to fly in equipment, they are even willing to fly in licensed technicians to help out.  Remember once a work day is gone, it’s gone forever.  Make the most of each and every day and minimize backlog as much as possible.

In terms of marketing, remember radio is probably best for a captive audience until power is fully restored.  Offers of safety inspections provide tremendous value to your community.

If you have any questions or want more information, please feel free to reach out to Nexstar Network. We’re here to help.