The Atlantic hurricane season is upon us, and predictions show a 30% possibility of above-normal activity this year.1 Ocean temperatures being higher is partly to blame, as that factor strengthens hurricanes. In general, over the past few years, hurricanes have increased in frequency and severity, with 2020 breaking records for most named storms.2
It will be no surprise if 2023 follows this trend, so it’s crucial for businesses to prepare and establish continuity in the face of disaster. Hurricanes can have devastating effects on communities and businesses, and data shows that the number of natural disasters that cause at least $1 billion in damage is increasing.3 Being fully prepared to handle the aftermath of a hurricane will allow businesses to protect their workers and property, keep goods and services flowing, maintain finances, keep their reputation intact, and meet contractual obligations.
5 ways to prepare before a hurricane
Here are five ways businesses can protect staff, clients and property.
1. Identify risk.
Hurricanes most directly affect U.S. coastal areas, but heavy winds, intense rain and inland flooding can occur in surrounding areas as well.
It’s crucial for businesses to understand how they must prepare for, mitigate the risk of and determine how to quickly return to operation if a disaster strikes. This includes outlining the potential impacts to the organization, operations, systems, structure, staff and customers.
Questions to ask include:
- Can you still operate without access to the damaged buildings?
- Can your organization survive losses if it is closed and/or inaccessible for three to seven days?
There are also internal risks to consider, such as whether the business stores or uses hazardous materials, that need to be addressed.
2. Prepare the space.
There are a number of things businesses can do to mitigate the harmful effects of a hurricane. Take a look around the building — at the signs, flagpoles, trees, fences, etc. — and consider ways to reinforce or otherwise secure these surrounding elements to prevent damage. Professional landscapers can help in developing a plan for the removal of debris and other potential projectiles.
Structurally, hurricanes pose risks to gutters, wall systems, roofs, windows and doors, etc. More weather-resistant components can be incorporated or retrofitted into building design so that structures can better withstand extreme weather. The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) has information that can be shared to help property owners learn more about these components.
Another consideration before a storm is to make sure all records, including insurance policies, are protected. Backing up data, checking power supplies and, importantly, making sure clear evacuation routes are identified and shared with employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has standards for emergency action that should be prepared for well in advance.
3. Employee training.
Preparing property and operations is important, but it’s essential to ensure employees understand the emergency plans.
This involves educating them but also practicing the procedures to build familiarity with the plan. Staff must be aware of the plans, trained on the actions to take and regularly communicated with about preparation. As businesses practice emergency planning, leaders should update plans and procedures.
It should also be noted if employees are certified in CPR, EMT, etc., and critical members of the team who may need to mobilize before or during a disaster, such as those involved with IT functions, should also be identified.
4. Communicate effectively and often.
Communication is key to hurricane preparedness — before, during and after the storm. The plan is set and staff has been trained, but storms can be unpredictable. Flexibility during unforeseen circumstances is crucial. Emergency plans should include procedures for keeping employees informed on the fly as needs arise.
Important steps for businesses include making sure contact information is accurate, employing a notification system for alerts and designating a central point of contact for all employee notifications before, during and after the storm. After the hurricane passes, those same channels can be used to provide updates on next steps, including returning to the office or other temporary locations and more.
5. Prepare for recovery.
Businesses may want to designate a recovery location where they can resume operations if their main building is damaged. Prior to the hurricane season, the recovery location should be equipped with necessary items to continue work.
Securing partnerships with restoration companies prior to any disaster hitting can also be an effective strategy. Post-storm, businesses are often scrambling to rebuild quickly and having a restoration company already under contract can help operations resume sooner. These services should be sourced and vetted thoroughly to make sure they are licensed, permitted and certified to work in a specified area and under the conditions.
Proactivity is vital
Taking proactive measures to prepare for severe weather can help mitigate damage and return to operations sooner. During the storm especially, life safety is a principal concern, but forward thinking can help create a more protected environment.
Our Loss Control Services has expertise and resources that can help business owners address specific risks they face from tropical storms and hurricanes. Business continuity plans can be a good starting point, in addition to developing strategies to protect property. Nationwide has also partnered with IBHS to offer information about subjects such as:
By identifying risks, preparing physical spaces, training employees, maintaining effective communication and planning for recovery, businesses can safeguard their assets, maintain continuity and protect their reputation in the face of disaster.
Discover more resources to help Nationwide customers keep their operations running safely and smoothly.