As hurricanes, floods, and fires have increasingly left a path of destruction across the U.S., small business owners have responded as only they know how: by innovating.
In the past few years, many small companies have developed new products and services that can help cities, towns, and other businesses respond more effectively to natural disasters that have grown more intense as a result of climate change. Here's how three small businesses are making the best of the worst situations:
The Auburn, California-based company creates a line of back up hard drives and network attached storage devices that claim to be fireproof up to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. (The average fire burns at between 800 degrees and 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit, says Robb Moore, chief executive of ioSafe, and inventor of the products.) The company's drives and servers can also be submerged in water for up to three days and still work.
Further, Moore says his products allow business owners to access their data immediately after a disaster. As opposed to most data backup services, which are in the cloud and require an Internet connection to access, his boxes remain onsite. So you can turn them on as soon as you get back into your office. The 27-employee firm, which has $6 million in annual sales, has seen demand for its products tick up about 20 percent in 2015, and Moore expects revenue to increase an additional 25 percent in 2016.
The Oslo, Norway company has created reusable, modular floodwalls that can protect buildings, or key pieces of equipment, from up to 8 feet of floodwater. Demand for the product, which is certified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has also taken off in recent years, as a result of Hurricanes like Sandy, and storm surges in South Carolina. Aquafence's U.S. sales have gone from a few hundred thousand a year in 2011, to an anticipated $3.5 million for full-year 2015, says Adam Goldberg, the company's chief of U.S. operations. The company, which has 10 employees, has already booked orders for $4.5 million for 2016. The barriers have been purchased to protect big new buildings, including the recently completed Freedom Tower in New York City, which plans to use the product as part of its flood protection plan. Two Trees Management also uses the barriers to protect Jane's Carousel, the historic Brooklyn amusement park ride created in 1922.
Based in Springfield, Massachusetts, Rainbank has developed technology that makes better use of existing municipal stormwater infrastructure, which is frequently overwhelmed during big storm surges. Typically this infrastructure consists of underground pipes and holding tanks, or outdoor swales and storage ponds. Rainbank, a 7-person company with revenue of $500,000, equips these with computerized sensors, transmitters, and remote-controlled valves, and pumps. These are monitored and controlled automatically by the Rainbank system, using weather algorithms, to gauge the most strategic time for them to fill with or empty water. In the past couple of years it has also developed a roof-based product for business owners who are often charged fees for disposing too much runoff water into municipal systems.
"We are being tied more and more strongly into the area of risk mitigation for cities, towns [and businesses] who realize that the cost of dealing with events like Hurricane Sandy is so high, that they need to figure out creative ways to do more with what they already have," says Kevn Dutt, Rainbank's chief executive.