Securing your cameras and laptops for your business during storms is just the start of the preparations that need to be considered before a storm hits. Safe guarding the essentials is not the only issue when storms arise but also the thought of how can you keep your business running if you are not able to work?
While I was in the middle of prepping for Hurricane Irma this week it occurred to me that many photographers may not know how to prep for a storm and how to avoid any losses. First thing to secure is your family and yourself. Have a plan to evacuate and of course make sure your property is stable. While so many are losing loved ones and homes in these devastating storms, that is the main priority.
Once you know your family is secure, what about your business? This article is intended for those prepping or for those affected in a minor way such as power outages. This is not to assume everyone will be able to recover, just to keep those who can be stable a bit longer until the situations changes.
Prepping for the Worst
Living in Florida now for over 20 years, hurricanes have become more of a ritual when it comes to the prep rather than going into hysterics. The house is always prepped with food, water, and a generator. The studio is now located outside the home in the historic downtown Palatka. While the sturdy brick building from the 1800s might be build better than the 1980s home I reside in, there are always issues when prepping to make sure the equipment and business are running smoothly after the storm even if I am offline. I want to make sure that even if I cannot go back to working, the business is safe and running for a least a few days or weeks until I can get back to it. As a full-time photographer this is my source of income so there cannot be a delay in income.
Start off with the basics by thinking of your files and gear:
- Backup data.
- Have a plan for file sharing to another photographer in another state (not affected by the storm) to work on time sensitive files (or files that cannot be re-shot such as weddings).
- Move inventory, client products, and gear to a safe location of possible.
- Use dryboxes for important documents that cannot be digitized.
- Make a list of current client contact info for rescheduling or any other matters. While you may be in the storm area your client may be located in another state. They may not be intentionally trying to upset you with their requests but they might not realize what is going on. So letting them know will help them to better understand the situation you are in.
Cate Scaglione writes: "During a hurricane I will bring my equipment to the top floor and put it inside a shelf of a closet because the structure would probably keep it safer. If it was in a tornado situation I'd move my equipment to a trunk in the basement. I would probably keep a copy of all insurance papers in ziplock insurance bag in both these emergency spots."
As photographers, do what you do best: photograph everything. Prior to a storm, photograph every piece of equipment you wish to have insurance on and send it to your insurance company along with the make, model, and ID number located on the side or underside of your equipment. This will help speed up the process when filing a claim.
For those with brick-and-mortar studios it is important to remember that water can and will find a way to seep into even the smallest cracks. In my studio one year, I secured everything but the front display window as there were no visible cracks. The rain and wind found even the smallest entry way funneling inside and dripping for days onto the entire canvas and photo display. Even when you think you have covered your bases, take another look around.
Beth Claire reminds everyone to look over their insurance policies to check if they are covered under flood damage. Many companies will not insure if the water is rising. Water damage can be considered if for example your studio roof was damaged and water came in. However, if water levels on the street rose, underwriters consider this flood damage which many business do not have. "Your business insurance covers natural disasters for your wardrobe, samples, etc. — not just gear. Most people don't know that flooding isn't covered under regular policies," Claire wrote.
Build Content Before
Create content that can be posted on your behalf from a trusted company admin or a third-party site such as Hootsuite. This will help you by keeping images up to date on your site, your scheduling, and all online presence. You can keep up the work without having to post in real time. Let the software do this for you while you tend to the needs of your family or studio.
The Photographer Family
Recently a photographer friend in the Association of International Boudoir Photographers (AIBP) community lost her boudoir studio during Hurricane Harvey. Michele Woodley was in the mandatory evacuation area when Harvey hit her studio. After she was allowed back into the area, the damages were found not to be covered due to not having flood insurance.
Like many, flooding was never an issue due to the elevation and her policy did not cover most of the damage. The members of AIBP and others in the industry did all they could to help such as donating wardrobe for her sessions and even a few who were local, that were not hit, offered up their studio so Woodley could keep the client sessions flowing.
While you may be new to photographer or a seasoned shooter, the photography family is a solid one that is willing to help where ever they can. One of our own writers was affected by his own home being destroyed and the photography industry pulled together to help raise money to get them through this time.
Whatever your situation may be it is important to be as prepared as you can for your business to sustain your income and family. If scenarios happen that were beyond your ability to prepare for, remember the photography family is there to help you out. The Profesional Photographers of America is a solid place to find not only insurance but guidance during these times. As a member, one phone call and they lead me in the right direction during any issues I had at the time.