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Hurricane Preparedness Week: A 5-Day Breakdown for Business Readiness

All it takes is a single tropical storm or hurricane to put a serious damper on your business activities.

That’s why it’s critical to take steps to prepare your business for a worst-case scenario even though the extended-range forecast for the 2017 hurricane season is reporting as below normal.1

May 7th marks the start of Hurricane Preparedness Week 2017.2 With June 1st, the official start to the hurricane season, right around the corner, now is the time to make sure your business is ready. To help make it easier, we’ve included a 5-day checklist you can use to prepare your business in as little as one work week. First, however, let’s look back at how the 2016 hurricane season compared to recent years.

2016: A Preparedness Wakeup Call
After a roughly 11-year stretch of below normal hurricane activity on the U.S. mainland, in 2016, five of 12 named storms impacted the U.S., with 12 of the 15 impacting land in the regions around the Caribbean Sea.3 Hurricane Matthew, the first Category 5 Atlantic hurricane since 2007, caused billions of dollars in damage across several countries, including roughly $10 billion in damages in the southeastern United States. Mathew not only caused power outages in Georgia and South Carolina and widespread freshwater flooding from heavy rain in the Carolinas and Virginia, it killed 47 people across five states.4

Keep in mind that Matthew was downgraded to a Category 2 storm by the time it made its most significant landfall, so the damage could have been much worse. In 2017, forecasters predict the Atlantic basin will see 11 named storms, with four hurricanes and two major hurricanes,5 so if you live in a high risk region there’s always a chance your business could be hit by a storm as bad as Matthew. Or worse.

Daily Checklists for Hurricane Preparedness Week
Preparing your business for a hurricane may sound like a lot of work, but it really isn’t. Especially when you divide the key tasks into bite-size chunks across a week or two. If you already have an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) or Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP), you will simply need to make updates and refresh supplies. If this is your first time preparing your business for a hurricane, Interstate’s Jump Start Disaster Recovery Plan template is a helpful resource for capturing key information.

Here are some essential steps to planning for your business that build off the recommendations that the NOAA provides to families.6
 
Day 1: Research
Determine what risks your business is most likely to face from a hurricane, including:
  • Flooding from a storm surge (are you in an evacuation zone?)7
  • Tornado-related damage or destruction
  • Damage from strong winds
  • Freshwater flooding related to heavy rain
  • Other
Also, take an inventory of records and data that should be backed up offsite, in case of flooding or other damage. Finally, locate and bookmark any local or regional websites that include emergency response plans and resources for your area.

Day 2: Begin Planning and Documenting
  • If your business is in a storm surge evacuation zone, develop a plan for shutting down your business and protecting employees and customers.
    • Include evacuation route options in the plan
  • Whether or not you are in an evacuation zone, develop a worst-case scenario plan that at the minimum includes:8
    • The emergency responsibilities for key employees, along with a clear chain of command
    • An emergency contact list for essential employees
    • Procedures for keeping track of employees and customers
    • Procedures for securing the building
    • Procedures for protecting documents and equipment from water damage (for example, wrapping them in plastic, moving them, backing them up)
    • The locations of emergency equipment
    • Any essential steps that must be taken when the power is out
Day 3: Gather or Refresh Emergency Supplies
Your disaster supply kit should include essential items for keeping everyone who remains onsite comfortable for at least three full days. At the bare minimum, a kit should include:
  • Bottled water and/or a water purifier (plan for one gallon per person per day)
  • A battery or solar-powered radio
  • Non-perishable food
  • Can opener
  • Flashlights
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
Day 4: Verify Insurance, Consider Your Supply Chain
Check in with your insurance broker to see if there are any holes in your coverage, based on the types of circumstances you are most likely to face.

Make a note to discuss supply chain considerations and contingency plans with your suppliers, partners or customers as you are in contact with them over the next several weeks.
 
Day 5: Strengthen Your Building and Finalize Your Plan
  • Look for and repair any structural or cosmetic damage to your building that could be vulnerable to strong winds and rains.
  • Either gather or arrange for quick access to materials needed to secure your building during a hurricane, such as:
    • Plywood
    • Aluminum panels
    • Nails
    • Duck tape
  • Add any missing details to your DRP or EAP and distribute to key stakeholders for review and training.
Preparation is Essential to Rapid Recovery
Depending on the level of devastation to your local community and region, recovering from a hurricane or tropical storm can be a gradual process. But the more prepared you are going into a storm, the faster you’ll likely be able to get your business moving again coming out of it. The steps outlined in this post are essential to good preparation. Best of all, once you have a good plan in place your business can easily update it every year.

Sources:
Extended Range Forecast Of Atlantic Seasonal Hurricane Activity And Landfall Strike Probability For 2017, Department of Atmospheric Science Colorado State University, April 2017. 
Hurricane Preparedness Week 2017, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 
2016 Hurricane Season Recap: 10 Things We Will Remember, The Weather Channel, November 2016. 
Hurricane Matthew, Wikipedia. 
Extended Range Forecast Of Atlantic Seasonal Hurricane Activity And Landfall Strike Probability For 2017.
Hurricane Preparedness Week 2017.
National Storm Surge Hazard Maps, NOAA. 
Hurricane Preparedness Tips for Businesses, CDEMA News, 2017. 

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