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Relocating Your Business to a Portable Building After a Disaster

Hurricane Katrina brought about the largest mobilization of trailers by the modular building industry in history. Trailers were quickly carted into the City of New Orleans so that essential services could continue to operate. The experiences of Katrina emphasize the importance of portable buildings for enabling a quick start-up of businesses crippled by disaster. 

Portable buildings provide an interim solution for business owners struggling to keep their operations up and running while they rebuild. In the midst of the turmoil, business owners—particularly small business owners—are already overwhelmed with worries of their safety and livelihood. We offer the following information as a guide for business owners seeking temporary space after a disaster, to help make the decision a little less stressful.

If you are reading this in the wake of a damaging flood, hurricane, or other natural disaster, you know all too well the toll nature can take on your business.  The important thing to concentrate on now is getting your business back up and running—while keeping your employees and yourself safe.

Because having your business closed by a natural disaster is stressful, it is many business owners’ first inclination to take it easy, to take some time off to recover.  But, what many business owners don’t realize is that the longer a business stays closed, the less likely that business is to ever open again.  In fact, according to www.ihbs.org, at least 25% of buildings that close because of disasters never reopen.  And, furthermore, small and medium sized businesses are most vulnerable to this type of permanent closure.  Over 200,000 small businesses were closed across the gulf coast when hurricane Katrina hit.   Don’t let your business become one of them.

Struggling to re-open, however, doesn’t mean that business owners should hurry back to their flooded or damaged buildings, as that can pose serious health risks.  Whether you confront asbestos in the walls, lead paint on the damaged surfaces, growing mold, or shaky footing and sharp rubble, damaged office buildings are a health and safety nightmare for employers and insurance companies alike.  Besides, you wont be able to resume work if you or your employees are sick.

So, what can you do if you can’t work in your office space, but you can’t stay closed indefinitely?  You can look to modular construction for a quick and reliable building solution.  Modular buildings, defined as “sectional, prefabricated buildings that are typically manufactured in a plant to a customer’s specifications that come with a bevy of options and luxuries to suit a wide variety of needs,” are perfect for natural disaster recovery situations.

They are highly customizable, and can be as cost-effective or as luxurious as your business requires.  Modular buildings also take half the construction time of regular buildings--which is important, given the importance of time in a business disaster recovery situation.

Disaster Recovery Funds

Insurance and loss compensation are both of paramount importance to business owners facing damage from natural disasters.  According to the Insurance Information Institute, you should do the following to ensure that the recovery process goes smoothly:

Get at least two bids on the cost to repair and/or replace damaged property.

Record income and be able to show the money your business was making both before and after the loss. 

Keep detailed records of business activity and the extra expenses of keeping your business in operation during the period of recovery.

Call your business insurance agent, broker, or company immediately (or as soon as possible) to report how, when, and where the loss or damage occurred. 

Disaster Recovery Resources

Whether you wish to prepare your business for the hurricane season that started on June 1, or you are trying to put your business back together in the wake of a disaster that has already happened, these websites, articles, and directories can help. Information is power, so empower yourself to make the changes that your business needs with the following resources: 

Federal Sources of Funding:

If you are in a federally declared disaster area, you may qualify for a federal loan from either the SBA or the USDA:

  • Small Business Administration (SBA)-Provides business of all sizes loans in the event of a disaster
  • USDA-Provides assistance to America's farmers, ranchers, and rural residents following a disaster

Government Resources for Disaster Planning:

Key government websites providing information and support to businesses both pre and post disaster.

Other Resources:

The following sites are excellent sources of information on disaster planning:

Mobile Office Purchasing

Mobile offices, also know as office trailers, make great temporary office solutions.  And, after the damage of a hurricane, storm, flood, or other natural disaster, a temporary office may be just what your business needs.    Like the name “mobile office trailer” implies, they are mobile, and can be placed on almost any flat piece of land.  What better way to get your business back up and running while you figure out the other details of your disaster recovery?

Here is a checklist of what you need to do in order to secure the right mobile office trailer for your disaster recovery needs:

-Figure out what you need.  How many employees should your office support?  What kinds of activities go on during the workday?  Because this is a temporary office, for use primarily during your businesses’ recovery from natural disasters, it is not going to be as equipped as your old office space, so it is important to differentiate between what you want and what you need to do business.  Mobile offices can have separate rooms, bathrooms on-site, climate control, and even built in desks and filing cabinets—but they are usually not overflowing with extra space, and their ceilings are usually not sky-high. 

-Decide on a mobile office trailer size.  The sizing for mobile offices generally is as follows:


8 x 16 ft.                          1-2

8 x 20 ft.                          1-2

8 x 30 ft.                          2-3

10 x 30 ft.                        3                                      usually has 1-2 private offices

10 x 40 ft.                        3-5                                   usually has 1-2 private offices

12 x 40 ft.                        3-5                                   usually has 1-2 private offices

12 x 56 ft.                        4-6                                   usually has 1-2 private offices

14 x 66 ft.                        5-7                                   usually has 2-4 private offices

24 x 60 ft.                        8-10                                 usually has 2-4 private offices

28 x 64 ft.                        8-12                                 usually has 2-6 private offices

If you need accommodations larger than what we have featured here, please visit our modular building quote request form

-Find and measure a lot.  How big is your office trailer site?  This is important because there are certain sizing guidelines for mobile office trailers.  For one, your lot must be essentially flat.  It also must be accessible by the 18-wheeler trucks that mobile offices are delivered on.  Most mobile office companies will perform a complimentary site-check to make sure everything is as it should be, but save your business some trouble by getting the right lot the first time.

-Figure out financing.  Since each disaster-recovery situation will have a unique set of time constraints and factors, consult our resources page for more information on how to plan long-term and short-term office space solutions.  You can choose to rent, purchase, or lease your mobile office trailer, so choose the option that is best for your business disaster recovery program. 

-Costs To Consider.  On top of the cost of the office itself, there are several costs that you must take into consideration when purchasing or renting a mobile office: first month's rent, fees paid to the vendor for set-up, fees paid to electricians and plumbers for establishing electrical and plumbing connections, anchor fees, skirt fees, security deposit and delivery charges, too. 

-Questions to ask vendors.  Keep in mind that your mobile office may have had a previous owner or tenant.  It is a good idea to ask some questions about its condition, so you know what to expect when it arrives.  Specifically: Has it required any major repairs?  Has it required any minor repairs?  What kind of site was it used on last?

-Straighten out last-minute details. Your business has endured enough surprises in the process of recovering from a natural disaster; don’t let your mobile office delivery be another one. Whether you need to make your mobile office accessible to those in wheelchairs, or make it look more attractive with a skirt and stairs, your dealer is integral in the process.  Double-check to make sure you are getting what you want, and to make sure that you won’t be surprised with last-minute fees for assembly or delivery. -Shop around for the best deal on your disaster recovery mobile office.  You have planned meticulously to maximize your businesses’ disaster recovery resources; so don’t forget to shop around to find the best price on your mobile office trailer.  Using a service like 360MobileOffice, you can save time and money, because they do the comparisons for you.  All you do is fill out a simple form detailing your mobile office trailer needs, and up to four mobile office vendors will call you with price quotes.  Click here to request free mobile office quotes for your disaster recovery needs. 

For a more detailed guide to mobile office leasing, purchasing, or renting, visit this mobile office buyer’s guide

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