Published On: Sun, Jun 17th, 2018

COCI: New Businesses Opening while Closures are Down. Prepare for the 2018 Hurricane Season

PHILIPSBURG — St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce & Industry (COCI) Executive Director Anastacio Baker, says that COCI statistics for the 1st Quarter of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017 revealed that new business openings are up; the number of business closures are down, and this says that the economy is showing a positive resilience of recovery.

“St. Maarten is bouncing back despite the September 2017 hurricanes. The first quarter figures are a testament to that especially when you compare the first quarter figures of 2018 with 2017 when there were no hurricanes impacting the country at that time.

“The catastrophe of September 2017 has allowed new opportunities to blossom. We are seeing the creation of new businesses. We have observed some of those who have been laid off becoming entrepreneurs while others have identified business opportunities and feel the time is right to put things into motion,” Stanley Lint, President of the Board of COCI pointed out over the weekend.

The top five new business registrations observed at COCI during the first three months of 2018 (January, February, March) are: (1) Construction & Engineering; (2) Bar/Restaurant, Snack Bars; (3) Clothing Store; (4) Cleaning Companies; (5) Administration.

New business registrations stats for the 1st Quarter 2018 (279), compared to the 1st Quarter 2017 (219) +60; Business closures 1st Quarter 2018 (43), 1st Quarter 2017 (64) -21; Inactive businesses 1st Quarter 2018 (50), 1st Quarter 2017 (82) -32.

Lint and Baker both added that even though the country is slowly bouncing back, we are in another hurricane season and both COCI representatives are asking, “is your business prepared?”

The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season officially started on June 1, but the first storm of the season, Alberto, started before the season opened, and this is a stark reminder that another hurricane season is here and that the business community must be prepared.

Hurricanes generate a series of threats to lives and property. The most obvious is the threat posed to buildings, equipment, and people due to high winds and storm surge.

Baker and Lint says the business community must be storm-ready for the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season. “We anticipate a busy hurricane season based on the latest forecast by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) which says we could see between 10 to 16 named storms, of which five to nine could become hurricanes, including one to four becoming major hurricanes of category 3, 4 or 5 with winds of 111 miles per hour or higher,” Baker said over the weekend.

An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes. The 2017 season was an extremely active one producing 17 named storms of which 10 became hurricanes including six major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5).

Baker added, the three main areas for the Sint Maarten business community are that businesses are prepared; are able to secure their facilities; that law enforcement has a plan in place for pre-arrival of a storm and post-hurricane strike security plans are in place to protect the fragile economic engines of the national economy; and businesses are able to re-open and provide services and products thereby bringing a semblance of normalcy to the community/customers and visitors to the island – business continuity.

The COCI is calling on employees of all businesses to prepare for the hurricane season and for business owners and employees to work together in making those preparations.

COCI would like to share with the business community a checklist that will help each business prepare for a hurricane’s effects. The checklist covers what key actions should be taken before and following the passing of the event:

Before the Storm: Stay up-to-date on the storm’s progress via radio, internet; Review your shelter-in-place plan, making sure your Disaster Kit if fully stocked (flashlight, batteries etc.); Back-up all data on servers and personal computers at your business; Place electronic devices in a safe secure area off the flood; Secure physical files; Devise a communication protocol where the business manager can keep in contact with employees (cell phone emergency list); Turn-off all non-critical devices and other non-essential electrical equipment at your business; Make sure drains and gutters are cleared; Install shutters/plywood over windows and doors; Secure all loose debris and other items outside around your business establishment; Make sure generators are filled with fuel; Shut off the gas line and secure the gas bottle; Call the water truck company to fill back-up tank; clean and sterilize water containers; Fuel up company vehicles; Review company insurance plans and make sure they have been updated; Make sure you have emergency cash on-hand as ATM machines and banks will be closed until the all clear has been given by the authorities.

Stay indoors and this would entail that your family and employees and their families are all safe. Monitor storm reports as the system passes the area. Stay on the downwind side of the house, away from windows and doors even if they are shuttered. Close all inside doors. If the wind gets inside, closed doors will stop it from entering other rooms. Do not go outside while the eye of the storm – an area of calm weather at the Centre of the storm – is passing. The calm eye can last for up to half an hour or more, and winds will return unexpectedly from the opposite direction, sometimes with greater force.

After the Storm: Stay indoors until the authorities declare the storm is over – All Clear. Most of the time a curfew is issued before the passing of the hurricane. You should not venture out and remain within your home/yard. Do not touch loose or damaged wires or anything that is touching them. Do not step in pools of water where wires could be grounded. Avoid trees, signs, buildings and other structures that appear damaged. Do not go sightseeing as you may hinder emergency rescue work or road clearance being carried out by the authorities. Open windows and doors for ventilation and to dry your home/business to prevent mold.

COCI-Baker and Lint