Tips & Considerations For Temporarily Closing Your Business For COVID-19
Many businesses and organizations across the City are making the difficult decision to temporarily close or greatly reduce their hours of operation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, for the safety of their customers and employees, or in response to stay at home orders. Temporarily shuttering a location can create some unexpected issues if not thought through carefully. Planning for what you need while you are away (particularly if you will continue some operations from another location), and how you will care for assets and inventory you left behind is crucial.
Following are some tips and considerations to help you as part of your planning and preparation. The list is not intended to be a one size fits all, but to help provide a starting point and general guidance. Beyond the list, we recommend you consult with your local municipality, law enforcement, utility providers and other local resources for additional input and guidance.
Lock up and secure your building and assets – As businesses and organizations temporarily close or reduce hours, they are posting signs and sending messages to inform customers, clients and the community. The unintended and unavoidable consequence is advertising when the building will be empty and may be vulnerable. To help minimize risks, you will want to security your building and assets as best as possible. This can be tricky for retail businesses that also desire to maintain window displays to promote their business while they are away.
- Lock all doors and windows (if they lock), while being mindful of local building and fire codes which may limit restricting ingress and egress.
- Make sure your alarm is on and settings are current (reprogram automated settings for start and stop times if needed) and notify any monitoring company of your revised schedule.
- Remove and deposit cash and checks you don’t need to continue operating.
- Store or remove valuables or high-end items that would attract unwanted attention like jewelry, electronics, and alcohol. It’s particularly important to consider items visible from or within reach of exterior windows or glass doors which can provide quick access if broken.
- Store or remove valuable financial records, blank checks, gift cards, employee records and similar documents and items.
- Protect major electronic devices, point of sale devices, computers, phones, printers and similar items by powering them down and storing them on or off site if possible. If registers can’t be stored or removed, leave them empty and open if possible so any would be thief knows there is no sense damaging or removing them in hope of what is inside.
- Back up your critical data. If you operate off a server or business data is stored on a hard drive be sure to have a cloud-based backup or backup that you can take off site if possible.
- Take a list of your inventory if available. A quick alternative is to take photos or video of your store, assets and inventory.
- Leave on a few interior lights if possible. LED desk lamps or overhead lights are a great low-cost option to leaving all your lights on.
- If budget allows install interior and/or exterior cameras. Some alarm companies include basic cameras for a nominal fee with annual contracts. Self-installed kits can also provide an affordable, relatively-easy to install option too.
Arrange for your mail and packages to be held or rerouted – You won’t want mail piling up or packages left behind while you are gone. Leaving mail unattended creates opportunities for prying eyes and can leave you unaware of critical notices, or tips about fraud (like someone opening a new credit card in your name while you are away). The good news is USPS and most delivery services are prepared to help you make the best of your temporary changes.
USPS has resources to help while you have reduced hours or are temporarily closed:
- Temporary mail forwarding – temporarily forward your mail to a new address for as short as 15 days or as long as 1 year. Note there is a $1.05 charge online - https://moversguide.usps.com/mgo/disclaimer
- Hold mail service - hold your mail at your local Post Office for up to 30 days. Must create an online account first - https://www.usps.com/manage/hold-mail.htm
- Informed Delivery- Digitally preview your mail and manage your packages. Sign up for free here - https://informeddelivery.usps.com/box/pages/intro/start.action
Arrange for or cancel other deliveries:
- Contact your suppliers and notify them of your change in schedule and temporary change of address
- If you need to receive a package for store delivery contact UPS, FedEx or others to make arrangements including options to hold for pickup
- Place a note with a phone number where drivers can contact you and directing them not to leave deliveries.
Update your business messages and information – Although many customers may expect your closed if when you are not there, it is a good idea to clearly communicate any temporary changes. Adding temporary signage, updating your outgoing voice and email messaging, hours of operation and other messaging can take any guessing out of the equation.
- Update your phone auto attendant, voicemail, email autoreply and other messages
- notify answering services, if any, of changes
- update your hours and change in operations on your webpage, social media and online resources like Google My Business, Yelp and similar locations.
Turn off optional equipment and electronics – Unplugging and turning off unneeded items can help reduce expenses while you are away. As a bonus powering off can also help minimize damage from surges, overheating or malfunctions that could go unnoticed for long periods without someone being on site regularly.
- Turn off and unplug any electronics that aren’t needed while you are away.
- Empty your refrigerator and freezer and turn it off if you don’t need to keep items refrigerated.
- Unplug any items that may be hazards like portable space heaters.
- Items to leave on include phone systems if needed to obtain messages, servers or computers needed for remote access or automated backups, and power to alarms and security cameras.
- If you turn off select breakers, be sure power remains on to those interior lights and any exterior security lights. Also be aware that for some older attached buildings or building shared by multiple tenants utilities including electricity may be shared by more than one business (you may not make many friends if you accidently turn off power to your neighbor too while you are away).
Reduce your thermostat settings – Save some energy by reprogramming your thermostat while you are away. The US Department of Energy recommends setting your thermostat to 50-55 degrees in the winter to prevent freezing pipes and to 85-90 degrees in the summer. For summer, lower temperatures may be necessary if you have exposed wood sensitive to warping in high heat and humidity, or carry products that could be affected by high heat like candles, chocolates or heat sensitive pre-packaged foods and snacks, some medicines and supplements, artwork, sensitive paper goods and similar items. Last, check with your electrical utility to see if they have any special discounts or programs that may apply..
Contact your insurer and discuss any coverages that may and may not apply – Be sure to communicate with your insurance carrier about your changes and to be sure any items removed and stored off-site are still covered. Also check policies to see if you are eligible to receive compensation for any period you are forced to close. Some businesses carry business interruption policies and other elective coverages that may apply. Contact your insurance provider and discuss your existing coverage and any temporary policy changes and additional precautions they may recommend.
Take preventative actions to minimize pests – “When the cat's away, the mice will play” is more than just an idiom. Long vacancies mean pests may go unnoticed and lead to bigger problems. Consider whether you have had issues with pest in the past and what precautions you need to take while you are away. Removing items that might attract pests like perishable foods and snacks is a good strategy when possible, and if not, storing them to minimize access is best. Whether setting traps, applying off-shelf pesticides, or hiring your local professionals, a little preventative action can help reduce a big headache when you return.
We hope these tips help you avoid some challenges of temporarily closing and allow you to focus on your business and reopening again soon.
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