If you have watched any of the Mission Impossible movies, you already know, there is no such thing as a perfect plan. However, when it comes to ensuring that your employees remain safe and your business survives a major hurricane, having no plan is a recipe for disaster. Emergency Response and Disaster Recovery Services are available in most hurricane-prone areas throughout the world, and developing a Hurricane Preparedness Plan doesn’t need to take weeks or months. There are plenty of resources online, including the National Preparedness website of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Although the DHS website is not particularly geared towards commercial businesses, it does cover many of the issues and challenges that an individual, family or business would face during a hurricane.
In this post, we wanted to outline some of the best strategies for keeping your business protected during a hurricane. To do that, we are going to focus on three major time-frames:
- How to prepare your business before a hurricane
- How to operate your business during a hurricane
- How to get back to doing business after a hurricane
Each of these are important and are probably worthy of their own separate post, but for now let’s discuss the major choices associated with each.
Preparing Your Business Before There is Any Threat of a Hurricane
It is human nature to procrastinate. Humans are optimistic and we never think that the absolute worst is going to happen, or if it is going to happen, it probably won’t happen tomorrow! Unfortunately, when we procrastinate by not planning properly for hurricane season, we can get some pretty horrible results.
So let’s briefly talk about some of the things that can be done long before a severe storm even becomes a problem.
- Find out how susceptible you are to hurricanes. Is your business in the path of many of the area’s hurricanes? If so, what have been the worst storms in the past? What kind of damage did they do? Is your property prone to flooding or wind damage or both? Do your homework and find out if your property is in a high-risk zone. If it is, make sure you have a plan in place.
- Have a Hurricane Preparedness Plan. Any business that falls into a high hurricane potential path should have a Hurricane Preparedness Plan. While there is no one-size-fits-all template for this kind of plan, there are consideration that every plan should address. Make sure there your plan addresses how to communicate with your employees, customers and vendors. Make sure every location has plan in place. Train your staff to be familiar with your plan.
- Fortify your locations. Having a Hurricane Preparedness Kit on-site at each of your location is great idea. For a business location, this should include a first aid kit, bottled water, non-perishable food items, extra batteries, a back-up communications device, backup power devices, and a weather/emergency radio that can be used for updated if basic communications options go down. The amount of these supplies should be determined by the estimating the number of people that a location could have to support in an emergency. Supplies should last for at least three days.
How to Operate Your Business During a Hurricane
In today’s world of advanced weather tracking and communications, you should have plenty of time to alert your employees and customers of your operational status before a hurricane moves into your area. Take advantage of this time!
Important operational procedures to consider during a hurricane:
- Update your website and Google Business Page. Let your customers know that you are closed or open. Explicitly explain the procedures for interacting with your facilities.
- If possible, tell your employees to stay home or to follow your city or state’s hurricane evacuation plan if appropriate.
- If you have emergency security personnel available to monitor and secure your location(s), they should be deployed at the property or in a safe location nearby. It will be their job to mitigate loss and damage to property. They can coordinate with federal, state, and local authorities as the storm hits. There are also security service companies throughout the country that offer commercial contracts for Emergency Response and Disaster Recovery that includes emergency personnel deployment.
- Communicate with your team as often as you can. Try to stay in contact throughout the storm. Keep a record of where your employees are and if they are safe.
How to Operate Your Business After a Hurricane
Hopefully the storm did cause severe damage or disrupt your business too badly. Many times hurricanes lose power quickly after they make landfall, but that is not always the case. Once the storm passes, there are things that you should do to make sure your team is safe and to resume regular business operations.
Here is a list of thing that you should consider after a hurricane has ended:
- Follow your chain of communication to check in with employees and make sure they are safe. If anyone needs help, coordinate with local authorities to provide a means of evacuation, medical treatment, or other assistance.
- Assess any damage to your property and local infrastructure. If your property is unsafe to return to, consider deploying security personnel and technology to monitor the site and mitigate the risk of fire, looting or other damaging post-storm incidents.
- If it is safe to return, you can then move critical supplies and equipment from your staging site to your property and enact your business continuity plan. Note that FEMA does not offer assistance for small businesses for storms declared a disaster by the President. You will need to contact the Small Business Administration for recovery help. Depending on the level of damage, you may also want to file a claim with your insurance.
If you would like to learn more about how to prepare your business for a hurricane or severe weather, please feel free to download our free eBook: The Essential Hurricane Preparedness Guidebook at the link below.
Thank you for reading!
If you would like more information about preparing your business for hurricane season, please download a free copy of The Essential Hurricane Preparedness Guidebook.