Hurricane Preparedness with an Eye on Business

As we reach the height of hurricane season, our focus is usually on how to protect our homes and families. But what do you do if you are a business owner? What does hurricane preparedness look like when it comes to protecting your livelihood?

Based on 2014 data from FEMA, the impact from a natural disaster causes 40% of small businesses to permanently close. It is important that businesses understand the risks and potential damage from hurricanes and large storm systems and prepare accordingly. Having an emergency plan is crucial to minimizing the confusion and rushed decisions that can accompany the arrival of a hurricane.

Here are some strategies to protect your business against potential loss:

  • Protect Your Employees. Employ mass notification systems, determine where employees are located, ensure no travel is scheduled, and set up a remote work environment if possible.
  • Inventory Your Assets. FEMA offers a Continuity Resource Toolkit which helps businesses prepare and recover rapidly from disruptions in operations. Your facilities, data, equipment, networks, and products are just a few of the assets at risk during a hurricane. Safeguard them against the threat of high winds, flooding, and power outages.
  • Build Your Emergency Plan. This plan should incorporate basic elements that are unlikely to change as your business evolves, but should be flexible to account for inevitable changes.
    • Backing up data. This step seems like a no-brainer, but ensure data is backed up offsite to guard against damage on premises. If an in-house server goes down, an off-site backup will be a lifesaver.
    • Set up cloud systems. This type of system is recommended and preferred by many IT professionals.  If employees need to work from different locations, you can access your business systems and data remotely.
    • Review your contracts. Be proactive in going over obligations and contracts with landlords, insurance providers, and vendors. Find what weather-related clauses there are for damages and weather-related loss.
    • Ensure your employees are safe, secure, and able to communicate with leadership and each other. Company directories should be updated with the latest accurate contact information for each employee, and pre-set templates can help administration prepare to relay information quickly.
  • Secure Your Premises.
    • Secure all doors and board up windows to protect against flying debris.
    • Tie down sheds or similar outbuildings and structures that may not be designed for high winds.
    • Move inside any items that could become flying debris and cause substantial damage during a hurricane, such as benches, plant urns, and signs.
    • Clean out floor drains and catch basins, and check that sump pumps are working and have an alternate source of power in the event electricity is lost.
    • Unplug non-critical equipment or turn off circuit breakers that feed this equipment.
    • Shut off piping carrying gas or flammable liquids in the event of a pipe breaking in the storm.

If your organization is in an area impacted by hurricanes, it is vital that you understand your risk, develop a plan for preparedness and mitigation, and put the plan into action. Not only will this increase the safety of your employees, but it will help you get back to business after the next hurricane hits.