Hurricane Preparedness Week: 7 Steps to Business Readiness

Caution: Hurricanes Likely Ahead 
According to the experts at the Tropical Meteorology Project (TMP) at Colorado State University (CSU), 2018 hurricane forecasts include 12 named storms. Five of the name storms are expected to reach hurricane levels, with one of them likely becoming a major hurricane with winds greater than 111 MPH.1

If you’re still inclined to play the odds that your area won’t be affected, consider some the record-breaking 2017 hurricane season. That’s not to say that this year’s major hurricanes will reach the same levels, but it’s a good reminder of what’s potentially lurking not too far away, even when we’re lucky.

Getting to “Prepared” in 7 Days
If you don’t already have an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) and/or Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) in place, the first thing you want to do is grab a template to document the various preparation steps. This way you will have the key details you need in one place which can then be updated every year. If you don’t have a template, you can use Interstate’s Jump Start Disaster Recovery Plan template. As you go about preparing, here are some critical things to consider each day:

Day 1: Understand the risks. Whether you live near the coast or much farther inland in a susceptible area, it’s important to know what a worst-case-scenario might bring. Make sure you understand how potential flooding or winds related to a hurricane could impact your area and business and then prepare accordingly.

Day 2: Develop or update your Emergency Action Plan. If you are directly in the path of a hurricane storm surge, then it’s essential that your business have an evacuation plan. Otherwise, it’s important that your business have a plan that considers what to do in a worst-case-scenario. A comprehensive EAP or DRP will cover everything from employee and customer safety, to business continuity, in the face of a hurricane-related disaster. At the very least, make sure you establish:

  • The chain of command
  • Employee emergency responsibilities
  • Evacuation details
  • Procedures for keeping track of employees and customers
  • Where emergency equipment is located

Remember to clarify which employees you need on site leading up to the storm and who could stay at home. It’s also important to ensure that the employees that are essential to keeping your business running understand what they are accountable and responsible for as the storm approaches and hits.

Day 3: Check your insurance. Talk to your insurance broker or company to make sure your business has the coverage needed to quickly bounce back from any scenarios you may face. Remember that even if your business is not located in a flood zone, insurance companies have very specific definitions for flooding and most policies include a flood damage exclusion.

Day 4: Assemble your disaster supplies. Hurricanes aside, every business should have disaster supplies available. Your kit should include key supplies needed to keep everyone comfortable for at least 72 hours and set them up for post-disaster survival. At the very least your kit should include batteries, non-perishable food, bottled water, flashlights, a first aid kit, cell phones, a can opener and a portable solar charger for your phones and other devices (see this post for a full list of recommendations).

Day 5: Strengthen your business. Inspect your building for any areas that may need repair (to protect the structure from strong winds and rain). Also make sure you have (or can quickly access) the materials you will need to secure your windows and doors, such as plywood or aluminum panels and nails.

Day 6: Coordinate with your community and suppliers. Research the general emergency response plan for your area to understand how community organizations, including emergency responders, utility companies and hospitals will respond to hurricane scenarios (make note of anything that will be important when a big storm hits, such as where community shelters will be located). Also consider how your supply chain could be affected by a hurricane and make a point to discuss contingency plans with suppliers and other partners the next time you talk to them.

Day 7: Finalize the details. If you’ve been documenting details all along, this step should be easy. The important thing is to have a resource with all of the information you will need for making clear decisions, gathering supplies and keeping your business as safe as possible when the situation gets stressful.

It’s All About Peace of Mind
When a strong hurricane is bearing down on your area, the last thing you need to be doing is panicking and scrambling to find critical supplies that will quickly sell out. Once you take the time to plan and complete the steps above, you will have a good plan in place that you can simply update each year. And your business will be better prepared for other kinds of disasters as well.

1 Forecast of Atlantic Season Hurricane Activity and Landfall Strike Probability for 2018, Department of Atmospheric Science Colorado State University, August 2018.