True to the peak of hurricane season, Hurricane Harvey has just caused an estimated $50 billion (or more) in damages in Texas, while Hurricane Irma's wrath and financial loss will be determined in the coming days and weeks. While the main concern for everyone is their safety, the safety of their loved ones and of their homes, businesses can be impacted just as forcefully from such powerful storms. Lack of preparations can cost business owners thousands or even millions of dollars in damages. There are many things you can do to prepare your business for storms, so you can focus on the safety of more important aspects of your life until all is calm again.
Preparation before a storm is the most important of all. Even the most substantial and timely response cannot come close to mitigating damages in the way that proactive behaviour can.
Especially if you operate in a high-risk area, follow these procedures at the beginning of every hurricane season:
- Ensure that you have a detailed written plan of safety procedures and evacuation routes.
- Review emergency procedures with employees and conduct a practice evacuation drill.
- Have emergency lights and a backup generator in place.
- Keep both a survival kit (with a first aid kit, flashlights, walkie-talkies, batteries, non-perishable food, and plenty of water) and a business hurricane kit (with plastic sheeting, heavy wood, duct tape, and other materials to protect your property) available onsite.
- Check your insurance coverage in case of property or inventory damage.
- Have a professional contractor perform a property inspection to ensure there are no flaws or weaknesses in your roof, walls, or flooring.
As soon as a hurricane watch or warning is issued:
- Continue to monitor the weather to keep yourself informed of the predicted severity and duration of the storm.
- Identify any materials outside, such as outdoor product displays, that could be damaged or blow around; bring them inside or secure them to the ground.
- Ensure valuable paper documents are stored in a safe, waterproof location, or have digital copies backed up in another location or saved in the cloud.
- If time permits, conduct a quick property inspection and have your contractor perform repairs if necessary.
- Fill up company vehicles and generators with fuel.
- Cover glass windows or doors with wood or shutters to protect them from debris.
During the storm:
- Keep only essential staff onsite if necessary. Ask all other employees to stay at home or evacuate the business, if safe to do so.
- Customer and staff safety is your number one priority! Ensure everyone remains calm and proceeds to a safe location.
- Turn off electricity and do what you can to protect electronic devices from water.
- If possible, continuously monitor your property for damage and perform emergency repairs to lessen further harm.
- Continuously check local radios or other weather sources to see when conditions are safe: don’t just trust what you see outside.
After the hurricane has ended:
- Ensure that the area is declared safe by police or similar authorities before re-entering.
- Have an electrician check for water damage before turning the power back on.
- Take photos and keep detailed records of any damage for insurance purposes.
- Contact your employees, customers, and suppliers to give updates on when you expect to return to operations.
- Begin clean up as soon as possible, but don’t rush to reopen your business. Remember, safety is more important than anything else!
While a powerful hurricane will likely do damage to your business no matter what measures you take, following these steps and precautions will hopefully limit your costs, and will keep all personnel safe. For more help preparing your business for these natural disasters, read and complete this full Business Hurricane Preparedness Checklist.