The hurricane preparedness guide for businesses

The period between June and November is one of the riskiest times for business. Why? Because it’s hurricane season.

hurricane irma 2
NASA Earth Observatory

While some hurricane seasons can be inactive, we were all reminded during the 2017 season just how disruptive tropical storms can be. In 2017, there were three separate billion-dollar hurricanes that impacted the United States. These devastating storms caused flash flooding, crippling power outages, and an overall state of emergency for many areas like Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico.

To avoid losses during these situations, it’s imperative for businesses to diligently take part in all four stages of hurricane disaster mitigation. These stages include planning, preparedness, action, and recovery.

Planning

Hurricanes bring many hazards to U.S. coastlines and inland areas. It’s critical for businesses to plan for these tropical storms before they become a threat. Planning improves financial, operational, and human risk mitigation for these severe weather events.

The first step in planning for hurricanes is to know you’re the unique threats for your operational areas. Depending on your location(s), your business could face tropical hazards like storm surge flooding which includes battering waves, inland flooding from excessive rainfall, tornadoes, and extreme winds.

A good way to understand your climatological risk is to utilize tools made available by NOAA’s National Hurricane Center tropical climate tools.  Most businesses lack the meteorological expertise for this analysis, so the simplest way to get hurricane planning information quickly is to consult a meteorologist or climate expert. They’ll help you understand what threats will have the greatest impact on your business.

Every businesses’ hurricane plan will differ depending on their size, industry, location, and tropical storm risks, so it’s important you take the time to research your specific situation before you craft disaster plans.

Preparedness

The next step in the process is preparedness. Preparedness includes reviewing and practicing your plan. Once you have a plan together, you can’t just set it and forget it. It’s critical to ensure that everyone in your business, including, employees, partners and community members understand your hurricane plan and know how to bring it to action.

Preparedness could include stocking the right supplies if you have buildings that could require a shelter in place in accordance with your plan. It’s important to have enough food and water for each person for at least one week. It’s also key to tell essential employees to bring medicines and prescriptions on hand. Radios, batteries, and chargers are also a must have for sheltering in place.

If your plan involves evacuation instead, you can prepare by familiarizing your stakeholders of the evacuation route and going through drills. If you’re evacuating, your plan might also include fortifying your buildings or vehicles left behind. Have sand bags and plywood on hand at critical locations to prevent water and wind damage.

To increase preparedness, your business can also invest in severe weather alerting or visualization solutions, so you have data to base your action on once a hurricane approaches.

Action

A tropical storm is on the way. You’ve planned, you prepared, now it’s time to act. When the threat is real, your planning and preparation work pays off. You and your staff can use your plan and training to:

  • Ensure the safety of employees
  • Mitigate damage
  • Protect physical assets
  • Limit the cost and amount of time for recovery

Recovery

The last step of your tropical disaster plan is recovery. Everyone wants to get their business back up and running as quickly as possible after a disaster. But sometimes, recovery can take longer than your business wants. No matter how anxious you are to open back up, it’s imperative to listen to emergency managers and local law enforcement.

It’s not always safe to go back into a region where a hurricane made landfall, even if the sun is shining. Often there is flooding and continued storm threats that can create issues, delays, and safety concerns. Forecasts after the storm has passed can be equally as important for several days. Forecasters can provide important information on flooding that is or could still occur as rain surges down rivers, as well as additional storm threats that could cause power to come and go on a fragile power grid.

In the recovery stage, communication is key. All your employees should know what to do and you should have open lines of communicate with all stakeholders.

Write it down

If you’ve made it to the end of this piece, congrats! You are that much closer to protecting your business this hurricane season. Now it’s time to write your plan down and start preparing. Remember, weather forecast information plays an end-to-end role before, during, and after a storm. This is also a great time to get in touch with weather intelligence providers that have meteorologists or climate experts on staff to help you prepare.

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

NEW! Download the Spring 2018 digital edition of CIO magazine