For those who live and work in coastal regions, Hurricanes are an unwelcome, yet consistent threat in the summer and falls months of the year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have predicted that 2021 will be a particularly active year for hurricanes with a likely range of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 5 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher) expected.
Hurricane preparedness is key to staying safe and mitigating damage when a storm hits. A frequently overlooked part of hurricane safety is the workplace. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 40% percent of small businesses that close due to hurricane damage do not reopen. It is essential for both employers and employees to proactively prepare for unpredictable weather such as tropical storms and hurricanes. By taking a little initiative and planning ahead of time, businesses can create procedures to be fully ready in the event of a disastrous storm.
Protect Your Property
Taking care to prevent the damage a hurricane could cause will help your business get back up and running as soon as it is safe to return to work. The following steps will help you protect your property from damage:
Remember to tie down small sheds and outbuildings that have not been designed for heavy winds
Move all items such as benches, seats, signs, and potted flowers inside that could potentially blow away in a potent storm. These types of items could become flying debris during a storm.
Invest in hurricane shutters or plywood to board up windows and doors, protecting them from wind-borne objects.
Consider having the roof of your building evaluated to see if it would withstand a heavy storm.
Use sandbags to protect doorways or areas subject to flooding.
Brace or anchor large furniture such as bookshelves and filing cabinets.
Move any fragile or valuable items to a safer location until the threat of a hurricane has passed.
Secure water heaters, ac units, and gas tanks, and if possible, move them to higher ground to avoid water damage.
Turn off pipes carrying flammable liquids such as gas in case of a break during the storm.
Secure Your Important Documents And Information
Often, it is secure information and documents that are most valuable to a business and can be at risk when a hurricane blows through. While most important information is now available online, there may still be physical documentation that would be a significant inconvenience to lose.
Define vital contacts to save that are fundamental to business operations, such as banks, employees, accountants, lawyers, suppliers, etc.
Take time to make copies and back up documents not easily found and produced such as tax returns, contracts, and statements. Seal any paper documents in waterproof containers.
If possible, move computers and laptops to an alternate, accessible off-site location.
Create A Hurricane Recovery Plan
Once the rain has ceased and the winds have died down, call all employees to check if all are secure and safe. The recovery plan should include a list of contacts to call if repairs such as electrical work, plumbing, mechanical, or landscaping work are needed. Assign or contract individuals who can help assess any damage and work to clean and tidy any messes that may prevent a timely return to work. When checking a property for damage make sure to check for:
Safety hazards such as exposed wires, downed lines or trees, leaks, and debris
Any structural damage to buildings or damaged foundations.
Damaged fire alarm or fire safety equipment.
Ensure all critical production equipment and valuable stock are in working order and organized..
Photograph and/or video any damage in case an insurance claim needs to be filed.
If available, designate a backup location to handle basic business operations if damages are incurred on the original business site. Finally, keep employees informed and updated on any unsafe circumstances and projected return to work dates.