Hurricane Safety: What to Do to Protect Your Business Before and After an Event

For businesses in regions that can be impacted by hurricanes and tropical storms, there are few things more agonizing to deal with than a major hurricane warning. In addition to your normal day-to-day business tasks, keeping an eye on trajectory and intensity of a storm can put you on an emotional rollercoaster.

As we were writing this post, the forecast for hurricane Michael was taking shape with predictions that it would make landfall as a Category 3 hurricane near the big bend of Florida. The expectation was that the storm would pack less rain than Florence but hit with stronger winds and a larger storm surge. By the time it reached the beaches of Florida, Michael had been upgraded to Category 4 storm and was the most powerful hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland in over a decade.

Whether or not you are prepared before and after a hurricane can have a big impact on the amount of heartburn you experience during the recovery. That’s why we wanted to provide some quick resources you can use in either case.

Before the storm: putting an emergency action plan in place

Ideally, to keep your business as safe as possible, you should complete your hurricane planning and preparation well before a storm is announced. The problem is that when your region hasn’t experienced an event for many years or the seasonal forecast isn’t ominous, it’s easy to become complacent or ignore updating your existing emergency action plan (EAP). That’s why it’s worth putting a reminder on your calendar to routinely spend some time each year revisiting the key steps in the planning process, including:

  • Research: Before you plan, it’s important to understand what types of risks you are most likely to face from a storm or other disaster.
    Ideally, include a business impact analysis (BIA)
  • Planning and documentation: How you plan will vary depending on considerations such as whether you are in an evacuation zone or an area that is prone to flooding. You should develop a worst-case scenario plan that includes everything from emergency responsibilities for employees to the locations of emergency equipment and what to do when the power is out.
  • Gathering or refreshing emergency supplies: Once a storm is announced, stores quickly sell out of the key things you will need, so it’s important to stock up well ahead of time.
  • Verifying insurance and readying your supply chain: You need to understand what your insurance coverage will address and what responsibilities you have after the storm hits to make sure you are ready for what’s to come. It’s also a good idea to have a contingency plan with your supply chain, if supply chain issues will have a major impact on your business or the businesses of your clients.
  • Partner with a restoration contractor ahead of time: When regional disasters strike, contractors are quickly overwhelmed with requests and it’s very difficult to properly vet a contractor when you are in serious need of help. A partnership with a well-qualified contractor will better position you to deal with all of the post-disaster surprises that can arise.

If all of this sounds overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be. Just break down the steps across a couple of weeks or a month. The first time around takes the most work, but the amount of work required to keep your plan and supplies up to date is comparatively minimal.

After the storm: fast-tracking your recovery

Once a storm has passed, and you’ve had a chance to take a deep breath, the quicker you can get to work on your business recovery, the better. The first thing you need to know is that if you are planning to inspect your building, it’s critical to proceed with caution. In cases of heavy flooding and storm damage there could be numerous health and injury hazards, so the job is best left to professionals. But if you are still considering entering for some reason, it’s important to ask the following key questions:

  • Has structural integrity been compromised?
  • Is there a risk of electrical shock?
  • Can you pass through safely?
  • Are there overhead dangers?
  • Do you have the proper clothing and equipment to go in?

Beyond evaluating the state of your building, there are several steps that are essential to getting things back on track, including the following:

  • Understand the situation in your area: Consider what has happened to employees and your community and what that will mean as you work to get your business up and running again.
  • Consider what has happened to your business: After determining the extent of the damage to your building and grounds, update employees and customers about your business status, check in with suppliers and then start working on short and long-term recovery plans.
  • Call your insurance provider ASAP: Since your insurance carriers will be busy with claims, call them as soon as possible so you can get to the top of their lists.
  • Carefully document your loss: Take photos and keep track of all of your receipts that may be important to your insurance claims.
  • Maintain morale: Hold regular team meetings to update and rally your employees. This will help to keep them engaged and focused on better things to come.

Safety is the name of the game

While getting back to business as usual is important after a hurricane, safety should be your number one concern during recovery efforts. If something makes you or your employees feel unsafe, leave it for professionals to deal with. your restoration provider will have seen similar circumstances before and know exactly what to do.