With hurricane season running from June 1 to November 30, the time to prepare is now. Even though it’s impossible to avoid hurricanes—or even predict them—proper hurricane preparedness can mitigate major issues that may arise when disaster strikes.
Here are seven steps that may help minimize damage and help keep your business running during a hurricane.
1. Get weather alerts
The path of a hurricane can be tricky—they tend to change course and intensify quickly. To try and get ahead of the storm, you should keep a close watch on the most accurate, current information about how the hurricane is progressing.
Make sure you have enabled the settings that allow the National Weather Service (NWS) and other government agencies to automatically send Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) to your mobile phone. You should consider enabling this on both your work and personal phones, if applicable, so the latest weather news can reach you wherever you are. Whether a hurricane is going to make landfall sooner than expected or it’s become stronger over time, you need to know immediately so you can enact your emergency plan properly. Other trustworthy sources for national weather news are the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Red Cross.
Signing up for warnings and alerts from area news bureaus can be helpful, too. By staying connected to local news, you can get specific updates about hurricane-related issues like flash floods, electric outages, and wind damage that can impact the day-to-day operations of your business.
2. Secure emergency supplies in advance
Don’t wait for an emergency weather alert to make the rest of your hurricane preparations. One of the worst things you can do when it comes to managing the impacts of a major weather event is to act too late—once the storm hits, everyone else will need the same products at the exact same time.
Beat the rush and secure your supplies before a hurricane is even forecasted. Large and heavy items, like water pumps, sandbags to stem rising water, and even power generators should be purchased as early as possible during hurricane season—or even before it starts—to avoid any surge in prices or delivery times due to high demand.
While stocking supplies, consider how you can protect not only the business, but also employees. Have at least one first aid kit, several flashlights, and ample nonperishable food and water on hand in case the hurricane causes you and your staff to remain onsite. Even items like a hurricane preparedness backpack can come in handy under unexpected circumstances with a combination radio/phone charger, emergency whistle, and even ponchos.
These smaller hurricane supplies can be stored in high-quality, fire-resistant emergency preparedness cabinets so all employees know exactly where to access them under duress. No room for more storage items at your business? Try using another, under-utilized supply closet to tuck these items away.
3. Double-check your insurance coverage
Sometimes supplies simply can’t prevent the massive damage that major storms can create. The best way to be prepared for structural issues or flooding related to a hurricane is to make sure your insurance policy covers it.
Many business owners don’t realize that commercial property insurance may not cover all aspects of hurricane damage—you might need a supplemental policy, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Be sure to call your insurer to dive into the specifics of your policy so you can make an informed decision about whether a supplemental policy is even necessary. While speaking to them, ask about business interruption coverage and double check that your policy is up to date. When it comes to insurance coverage, you want to cover all your bases.
In that spirit, it’s also a good time to compile a comprehensive inventory of all your equipment, merchandise, and other physical belongings in case you need to make a claim for hurricane-related damage. Make physical and digital copies of critical papers, including your inventory list and insurance policy, and store them in multiple places as part of your business continuity planning.
4. Create an evacuation plan with your team
The safety of your team is your top priority. Yet people tend to panic in an emergency. Prepare your team well in advance of a weather-related disaster so everyone can feel confident that they know exactly what to do when the time comes.
Post a plan in as many languages as necessary at your business to show employees how to leave the building and where to go if evacuation is necessary. Help them follow the route by posting adequate emergency exit signs and lighting.
A physical evacuation route is critical, but a communications plan is just as important. Work with your human resources team to develop a procedure for how to contact staff to check on their safety in case of a hurricane emergency.
Keep physical and digital files that include staff cell numbers, home addresses, email addresses, and emergency contact information so you have several ways to reach them. Store the digital files with the team in charge of the communications plan, and keep a physical copy with the rest of your hurricane preparedness supplies in case internet is lost.
5. Preserve your data
The pandemic forced many workplaces to rethink where their key customer files and data were located, so your business might already save or back up all files onto a cloud that can be accessed from anywhere.
But many workplaces still keep files and records in cabinets or drawers—in fact, they might even be required to do so by law. Heavy-duty storage designed to protect these important documents is a good first step, but you also might consider keeping copies of vital documents in an offsite climate-controlled storage facility so you can still have physical access, even if your building has taken a hit during the storm.
6. Determine what to do in the eye of the storm
If you’re alerted that your business is in the path of a hurricane, you’ll want to act quickly before you evacuate in order to curtail damage. As part of your hurricane preparedness planning, assign team members to various roles when an emergency plan is activated to ensure you can protect as much of your property as possible.
These roles may include:
- Securing outdoor items in a shed so they don’t fly around and inflict additional damage.
- Moving important papers and/or expensive equipment to the highest ground possible to avoid water damage.
- Covering doors with hurricane fabric to protect glass.
- Laying sandbags to defend areas prone to flooding.
- Turning off the main circuit breaker and other utilities, as instructed by your local fire department or emergency services.
- Executing the communications plan to check on all employees.
- Gathering the team to leave premises together so the building can officially be closed.
7. Prioritize your people
Any physical belonging can be replaced, but a life is priceless. Make sure your team feels safe and supported both physically and mentally during an emergency like a hurricane. When assessing your hurricane preparedness, ask yourself: “As an employee, would I feel confident in these plans?”
Final words from a Founding Father
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Set yourself up for a less stressful hurricane season by keeping hurricane preparedness top of mind before it’s too late.
Before the first raindrop falls, work with our experts at Global Industrial to ensure you have the items you need to minimize fallout and protect your team.