Hurricane Survival

Protecting your business from a hurricane disaster

Some tips to keep you in business long after the storm has passed
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Any responsible homeowner will plan and take the proper precautions to protect their property and family in the event of a hurricane. A sensible business owner or organization shouldn’t do any less for their property and employees.

Hurricane preparation is normally restricted to the plans for, and safety of, the persons and property involved. Supplies? Check. Emergency plan? Check. Plywood? Check.

For a business, however, there are a few extra things to consider to ensure safety, continuity of the business and employee care. Below are some tips from experts on how to ensure the continued success of your business if a hurricane occurs.

When it comes to the people, businesses should have a business continuity plan that all personnel are aware of. This plan should address the risks and any potential impacts to that business (flooding, power outages, power surges, elevator access, etc.). The plan should include an effective response so that all persons are aware of what should happen prior to the hurricane, during the hurricane and once the hurricane has passed and the all clear has been given.

The plan should also address the roles and responsibilities of the personnel. It should clearly identify who the decision-makers are, who will perform what actions and so on.

The plan should also address the most important element: communication. Who is responsible for the messaging and the communications to internal stakeholders as well as external stakeholders, clients and the public (if needed)? Updates are regularly given on 100.1FM, the government’s Emergency Broadcast Station.

The plan should be tested annually and training provided addressing any gaps that are highlighted. Training and exercising plans is what prepares the business when events actually occur,  speeds up reaction times and creates efficiency.

All this can be overwhelming, especially for a small business owner with only so many employees to help in this kind of situation. Not sure where to start? Here’s another way to consider what to do—follow these eight hurricane preparedness for business tips:

  1. Determine your risk. Explore your site(s) to prepare for the unexpected. Engage outside opinion on how to best protect your property when there’s no risk of a hurricane occurring. Remember, the best time to fix the roof is while the sun is shining!
  2. Secure your building’s surroundings. Debris is a major safety risk when natural disasters such as hurricanes happen. Take the time to properly secure your building’s signs, fences, and outdoor furniture. Trim any trees or plants that could pose a threat to your building or the power lines nearby during high winds.
  3. Ready the building itself. Prepare your building’s physical structure to protect your team and operations. Install wind-resistant shutters and impact-resistant windows or skylights. Invest in commercial doors. Ensure the roof is in good condition. Strap down and protect electronics and look into having a backup power source off-site. If your business has a generator, implement a maintenance plan and run weekly tests to be sure it will work in an emergency.
  4. Close early when necessary. Closely follow the weather report in your area to know when to act. It’s always better to be safe, shutting your doors sooner and sending team members home, rather than waiting too long and putting yourself, and others, in harm’s way. Act immediately when you sense danger or see that the weather is worsening.
  5. Protect important information. Seal documents in waterproof containers when necessary. Back up imperative data and contacts (which should be stored on servers off-site) and identify key contacts to reach out to in the event of a hurricane.

Now, when it comes to your tech and equipment, you should ask yourself how much of your business is technology-based. Questions to consider if you rely heavily on technology include:

  • Do the systems need to be shut down and backed up prior to the hurricane’s closest point of approach? What is the process for doing this? Who is responsible for doing this? Is there a log?
  • Are there systems that can be paper driven if the computers are down? Are staff proficient in operating manually?
  • Should the business invest in a generator? If there is a generator, when was it last serviced and tested? Has it been fuelled?
  1. Create a plan. Work with your staff to make a plan that makes sense for your business. What supplies will you need? What protections need to be in place? Where is the best place to shelter? Is inventory up to date? Take the time to build a plan now so your business can be prepared at any time. Also, think about what happens in the aftermath; set up a remote working plan for your staff and test out a work-from-home day under normal circumstances so the team knows what to do.
  2. Know when and how to return to work. Inspect the building’s infrastructure to ensure it’s safe before asking employees to return to work. After you know the building is clean and secure, take an inventory of damage and report it promptly, keeping all receipts for claims. Contact vendors about your reopening and update your listings on Google business to reflect your return. Though weather events like hurricanes can be devastating, take this time to learn from the event and build back a stronger business that’s more disaster-ready.
  3. Insure your business. One of the best ways to protect your business is to get the right coverage for a natural disaster. Be sure to stay in good contact with your local insurance company/agent. They’ll get to know your operations and recommend the right amount of business coverage that protects you from risk and helps you recover more quickly.

Make sure the items listed below are ready once a storm is predicted:

  • Copy of your company’s business continuity and hurricane preparedness plans.
  • Updated contact list.
  • Updated list of roles and responsibilities pre- and post-storm.
  • Emergency vendor contacts (utilities, fuel, security, and off-site storage).
  • Cell phones, two-way radios, AM/FM radio or weather radio.
  • Flashlights, batteries and portable lighting.
  • Plastic bags, labels, masking tape and markers.
  • Hazard tape.
  • Unopened padlocks and keys for lock-down of property and equipment if necessary.
  • Pre-paid non-activated phone cards that can be used to contact vendors, employees or family members.

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