School is back in session and Autumn is approaching! While this typically means milder temperatures and beautiful Fall aesthetics, August also marks the beginning of the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season in the United States. Over the next several months, residents in the Southeast will monitor activity in the Tropics closely to stay informed on the paths and intensity of potential storms. As progressive as technology makes Meteorology and forecasting today, storm prevention is simply not possible. The reality is that someone in the region is going to be impacted by a hurricane, at least once, each year.
As insurance professionals and business owners, you know preparation is imperative to minimizing storm exposures and ensuring a quick return to business in cases of interruption. In this blog, we’ll cover ways to minimize damage to your business, keeping your business and employees safe, and recovering quickly if a storm impacts your business.
Before the Storm
If your is business located in the Southeast, especially in the Gulf Coast, you know that hurricane preparation begins well before a storm begins to form in the Atlantic. Based on your location, there are some structural enhancements that can be added to your building to keep it as protected as possible. Doors and windows are the main entry points for wind and water, so their protection is essential to fortifying the building. Installing hurricane shutters, wind-rated windows, and braced or wind-rated garage doors is a good standard preventative measure.
Additionally, all businesses should have a Hurricane Preparedness Plan.
Hurricane Preparedness Plan
When determining preparation elements for before, during and after the storm’s arrival, consider the following key factors:
Who will implement the plan? Determine which staff will be available and able to manage the plan. Create an emergency phone list with the cell phone numbers of the essential workers that will implement the plan, as well as a list of all employees who will need to be communicated to before, during and after the storm. In addition to the staff’s information, compile the contact information for local emergency response teams, vendors (e.g., utilities, security, off site storage), your insurance agent, and FEMA.
What tasks will need to be completed? This list should include tasks such as securing the building or worksite, protecting or relocating valuable or fragile possessions, backing data up to an external drive or cloud storage, and securely storing all money on hand. Also consider the items you will need during an emergency. Determine what protection tools (e.g., sandbags, plywood) and emergency kit items you would like to have available.
When do we implement the plan? Determine a timeline for each phase of the plan including when staff will be released from work, and when the business will be closed to customers. You must also determine when essential staff, and when full staff should return to work as well as the conditions that will predicate the return.
Where will you relocate your equipment, inventory, and company vehicles, if needed? You will also need to establish a location for storing emergency and First-Aid kits, backup generators, and sandbags.
How will you put all these details into action? By implementing your plan. This starts with effective staff training. Your plan and trainings should identify a clear timeline for executing the plan and each task, including who is responsible, must be covered in detail.
After the Storm
Once the storm has passed, it’s time to assess the damage and implement the plan for moving forward. Here are some tips for dealing with the results of a hurricane.
- Monitor radio and television to determine if, and when, you will be able to access your business location.
- Assess the damage to your building structure; if it appears unsafe, do not enter.
- Do take pictures and video recordings of any damages.
- As best as possible, use tarps and other weatherproof materials to cover damage. Seal window and door openings to prevent further damage.
- Contact all staff to check on their safety, and provide guidance on returning to work
- Contact your insurance company
Hurricane season can be an uneasy time for Gulf Coast residents and doubly so for its business owners. Preparing now, before any storm arrives, provides the comfort that your business will be ready to face hurricanes and recover quickly. Now is also a good time to meet with your agent to review your insurance coverage and ensure your business is adequately protected from hurricane-related damages.