Data-Collecting Tools May Help Small Businesses Better Prepare for Future Natural Disasters

As of Friday, early estimates pegged the financial impact of Hurricane Sandy at more than $70 billion, a number that is expected to rise as cleanup efforts continue. This financial impact can be overwhelming to small businesses that were caught in the path of the storm. According to insurance experts, many business owners are unprepared for a natural disaster such as this hurricane.

Even for businesses that aren’t directly hit by a natural disaster, the results of the storm can still be damaging. Many businesses are without power for days, and as little as two or three days of lost sales can be devastating to their bottom line.

Of course, nothing can be done to prevent these natural disasters from occurring, but there are technologies that can help individuals, including small business owners, be more aware and better prepared for a powerful incoming storm. These technologies include floating robots to gather storm data, fuel cells for power outages, and tools to choose evacuation routes and help responders stay connected to the Internet. It’s said that these innovations will increasingly help responders deal with future disasters.

These tools are said to help track weather patterns, measure their strength, soften their impact, and speed the recovery process. Many of these tools are already proving their worth. For example, VantagePoint-backed LiquidRobotics deploys floating robots to measure vast amounts of ocean data. It is reported that these robots can be sent straight into a storm, and measure conditions at the ocean’s surface in order to provide key information about the storm’s future track and strength.

These wave gliders, which are what the robots are called, provide real-time information of tectonic plate movement, which helps scientists determine if earthquakes will trigger tsunamis. LiquidRobotics equipment is already deployed in some areas around the Pacific, including Indonesia and Japan, for this purpose.

Another tool that could prove beneficial are fuel cells. Fuel cells provide power when electric power lines go down. One of these companies, ClearEdge, sells its fuel-cell system starting in 5-killowatt units. This is enough to power a 3,000 square foot home. The units can be stacked to provide even more power. They work by forcing natural gas through a chemical system to generate power, without burning the gas.
Another important key to being prepared for a natural disaster, is understanding the insurance coverage that your small business has in case it is directly hit by a natural disaster. However, for those businesses that don’t suffer damage but do acquire monetary loss, these tools may prove to be extremely helpful.

References:

Chandler, Matt “Sandy a reminder for biz to be prepared” 11/2/12

McBride, Sarah “Start-ups plan new ways to deal with future disasters” 11/1/12