Hurricane Season is Here
Are You Prepared?
According to the National Hurricane Initiative, an estimated 40 percent of small businesses that close due to hurricane damage do not reopen. In order to prevent your business from being another statistic, it is critical to make preparations sooner rather than later.
With the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicting a 75 percent chance that the 2018 hurricane season will be at or above normal activity, protecting projects, property and employees from risks they may face in the months ahead is crucial.
“There is serious potential for a storm to disrupt a job, especially any exposed equipment and materials,” says Bob Kreuzer, vice president of risk control construction at Travelers insurance company. “Taking proactive steps before a storm can go a long way toward minimizing damage.”
With the onset of the season, Travelers recommends that businesses with operations outdoors consider securing all aspects of the job, identifying the potential for flooding and taking steps to move equipment and even install drainage systems where practical. Companies of all sizes should create an employee communications plan and regularly review their insurance coverage to make sure it sufficiently protects the business and its assets.
“On the technology front, it is a good idea to have people in place and have pre-mapped out the process of how the technology that a company uses on a daily basis will continue to run during and after a storm,” says Chris Moyer, vice president and general manager of DXC Technology. “We find that businesses are running lean now and a hurricane can definitely cause a disruption if they are not properly prepared. During a disaster, you can’t always depend on your physical location, so business owners have to look at how they will maintain service remotely. Think of it as a continuous process, look at what you need for your people to maintain normal communication first and then address how to keep customers informed.”
Moyer recommends that all of a business’ key people are on the same page and have the information, tools and mission critical to access everything necessary to operate during a disturbance. Knowing how to utilize the cloud to store and access your data is also recommended, as well as contacting your service provider to find out what remote access options are available.
The cloud is considered by some in the tech industry as the best place to store important documents. If a business does keep paper files — especially tax documents and insurance papers — these should be stored in a waterproof container and placed in a well-secured location. Additionally, businesses should have access to information for lawyers, clients and other important people to the company.
“Doing a simulation, even a table-top simulation, is a good idea in this type of situation,” Moyer says. “This will allow everyone to see exactly what could happen so they can plan accordingly how to react and how best to serve customers.”
While there is no guaranteed way to totally protect your business during a hurricane, there are steps that can be taken to soften the blow and keep the damage to a minimum. The National Hurricane Initiative recommends that businesses anchor large pieces of furniture or shelving. Secure these to wall studs with braces where possible. Keep the water heater and gas tanks on risers to protect them from flooding. Keeping these measures in place year-round is also a good idea so that precautions will be taken as the storm approaches.
Travelers recommends business owners carry business insurance at all times to protect them during hurricane season. If you are unsure about what your insurance covers, speak with your insurance representative to make sure you’re well-protected. Maintain a complete inventory of your business. Use photos or video so you have a clear record. This helps if you need to replace critical items or rebuild your location. Document the business both inside and out.
Businesses also need to take care as to how they operate following a storm.
“Before taking a job post-storm, businesses should consider whether or not they have enough qualified staff to handle the work, the necessary materials to complete the job and adequate insurance coverage for the situation,” said Rick Keegan, president of Construction at Travelers. “Weighing the risks and putting safety first are important to protecting business’s livelihood and employees.”
“It is so imperative to plan ahead,” Moyer said. “Businesses need to keep doing business during the storm and after. Owners need time to get their core infrastructure back up and running, and there is no way to tell how long that will take. You want the least amount of customer disruption as possible. Really, a good rule of thumb is to plan to be able to run remotely from one to six weeks to start with.”
STEPS TO PROTECT PROPERTY
Invest in and install shutters or plywood in order to protect windows and doors from windborne debris.
Have the roof of your building evaluated to ensure it can withstand a storm.
Remove any branches or trees adjacent to your building that could potentially fall and damage it.
Sandbag any area that is subject to flooding.
Anchor and brace any large furniture (bookcases, shelves, filing cabinets) to wall studs.
Relocate any valuable or fragile possessions.
Secure all utilities including water heaters, gas tanks and heaters and if necessary, raise them to higher locations to avoid water damages.
Secure electronics such as computers and other office equipment with straps or velcro.
Turn off all the utilities prior to a hurricane making landfall if possible.
Protect important documents and information.
Designate important contacts to save that are crucial to business operations, such as employees, banks, lawyers, accountants, suppliers, etc.
Back up computer files that contain documents not easily produced, such as insurance documents, legal contracts, tax returns and accounting statements, to avoid water damage.
Seal paper versions of these documents in waterproof containers onsite.
Save all your designated contacts and documents in an alternate, accessible off-site location.
Keep A preparedness checklist.
The below items should be gathered in one location at your place of business. This will help protect the safety of your employees should disaster strike during regular working hours and without ample notice.
- Battery operated radio or television
- First-aid kit and first-aid manual
- Flashlights, batteries, light-sticks
- Toolkit (basic tools, gloves, etc.)
- Camera and film for documenting damages
- Whistle/signal flare to signal for help
- Tarps, plastic bags, duct tape
- Cleaning supplies, including mops, towels and garbage cans
- Smoke alarms and fire extinguishers
- Electric generator
- Gas for vehicles, generators and other equipment
- Cash, ATM cards, credit cards proper identification
Emergency contact information such as the nearest hospital and police, along with:
- Life safety issues: 9-1-1
- Small Business Administration (SBA): 1-800-359-2227
- FEMA tele-registration hotline: 1-800-462-9029
- Insurance company and agent’s contact information