Natural Disasters and Your Business

What a week we had from the 14th November, starting with the Earthquake early Monday morning and followed by torrential rain and floods. I know we’ve always got plenty to talk about with the weather in Wellington, but that week really topped the list.

The effect on businesses vary depending on what the business does and where it’s situated. We’ve been talking to many clients since, and it seems the effects on their business swing both ways.

A supermarket client had a mad morning clean up, but were then able to open Monday morning. They were really busy as their competition weren’t able to open. Sadly, they’ve been shut down 10 days later because of a building over the road being deemed to be risky. A firm of lawyers have moved in temporarily downstairs from us, they’re locked out of their building because of a risky neighbouring building. They can’t even get their records and equipment.

On the other side, a client with a pub had an extremely busy Monday. People couldn’t go into the city and wanted the companionship of others. Clients that work in engineering, alarm systems, tiling, or anything else to do with building and maintenance have been inundated with work since.

We were closed on the Monday, our building was cleared by that afternoon so all back to normal on Tuesday. But that day we were jittery from the quake, all telling our stories, and then team were busy watching news sites all day to see whether they could get home due to the floods. The next few days were taken up with conversations about aftershocks and how long it took to get to or from work with the weather.

The costs to a business range from the obvious e.g:

  • Damage to stock
  • Damage to premises
  • Loss of profits because you can’t open for business
  • Customers not being able to get to you (e.g Kaikoura or even that the parking buildings are closed so people are reluctant to come to town)


These are things you can insure against. I suggest you review your insurance policies to make sure they are adequate. We can point you to some good insurance advisors if you’re not sure, and we can help if you need a hand working out your claims for loss of profits.

But there’s also the not so obvious things, like drops in productivity due to people’s reactions. I think our productivity was affected for at least the whole week. People feel stress in different ways and we need to be sensitive to this.  Make sure you and your team have a clear understanding of what to do following a quake. When are they expected to return to work? How will they know? How will you all know you’re all OK?  We now have a group WhatsApp to be able to communicate to everyone in one text.

They may also want to know what they will be paid for and what they won’t be paid for.  To help understand your obligations to pay your team after a disaster and some checklists for both employers and employees, check out:

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