In the Atlantic, hurricane season lasts from June to November.
Businesses on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts are often vulnerable to hurricanes. And without proper preparation, businesses can be devastated by one.
If you operate a business in an area where there is a risk of hurricanes, you’ll definitely want to read this guide. In it, we’ll discuss a few of the basic steps you can take to prepare your business for hurricane season. By following this guide, you can protect your employees and your business assets.
Make sure you have a strategy in place to recover from a disaster and keep your business running!
1. Understand Your Level of Risk
Not every business has the same level of risk when it comes to hurricanes.
Obviously, living closer to the coast means that you have a higher risk of storm damage. This is due to high winds, flooding, failed power lines, and other types of damage caused by hurricanes.
Before you prepare your business for hurricane season, it’s a good idea to understand exactly what the risk is that your business will be affected by serious storm damage.
There are a couple of handy tools you can use to do this, including:
- National Storm Surge Hazard Maps
- ArcGIS NWS Storm Surge Hazard Maps
- Ready.gov – Hurricane Risk Assessment
Using these maps and worksheets, you can see the overall risk of a hurricane at your business.
However, it is important to note that these maps are based on historical data. Hurricanes are getting stronger and more powerful.
Now even businesses that are farther inland and far away from historical risk zones could be at risk of hurricane damage in the future.
2. Develop A Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) For Your Data And IT Systems
One of the most essential – and overlooked – parts of disaster recovery for a small business is recovering data from damaged IT systems, using a Disaster Recovery Plan, or DROP.
If your servers and computers are damaged in a hurricane, and you have not backed up this information, it may be lost forever.
This is a serious issue. Data is one of the most valuable assets your business has. Losing information about customers, orders, major projects, and other such assets can be devastating.
75% of all small businesses do not have any kind of IT DRP in place. More than 40% of businesses never reopen after a disaster like a hurricane. This is often because there were no backups of critical data.
Because of this, you need to make sure that you have a DRP in place.
The first thing you should do is make sure that your servers and computers are regularly backed up, every day.
You may even want to consider moving to cloud computing for most of your data storage and processing because this means your data will be stored far away from your business – and always available, even after a disaster strikes.
For more information about disaster recovery plans, and how to begin creating one, we recommend checking out the following guide:
3. Review Your Insurance Policies, Contracts, and Other Paperwork
When it comes to protecting your business from a natural disaster, your insurance company is critical.
If your business is affected by a hurricane, you need to understand what kind of coverage you’re entitled to.
Beyond standard coverage for flooding, wind damage and water damage, you could be eligible for other coverage. This includes the cost of renting a new commercial space until your office or store is repaired, and the cost of business interruptions and lost profits.
Make sure you review your insurance policies BEFORE hurricane season. This is important so that you can understand all of the coverage you’re entitled to, and make any necessary changes.
You should also review all of your customer and vendor contracts and other such paperwork, to understand what you’re obligated to do for your customers after a natural disaster. Doing so will ensure that you’re ready to carry on your business, even if a hurricane does affect your company.
4. Catalog Your Business Assets Regularly
Regularly cataloging business assets is absolutely essential for insurance purposes. Without a complete, full log of all of your business assets, you may have trouble getting complete compensation from your insurance company.
However, if you can provide a complete list of all of the items and assets that were damaged, ruined, or destroyed in a hurricane, you’ll be able to ensure that you get proper compensation.
This will also help you when you’re replacing damaged assets. It will also ensure that you get what you need to restart your operations quickly.
When you prepare your business for hurricane season, it’s not just about how to survive the danger. You also need to consider the aftermath.
5. Have A Business Continuity Plan
You need to have a plan for continuing your business operations.
If you work in an office, for example, you may want to consider ensuring that your workers are able to work from home. At least for long enough that you can get a new office from which you can operate.
If you run a retail business or food service business, you may need to develop a plan for moving your operations quickly. You will need to move to a temporary location, and you should have a business continuity plan which will allow you to do so quickly and re-open as soon as possible.
For more information about the best steps to take to prepare for a disaster – and ensure your business can continue operation – take a look at the following guide.
6. Have A Communication Plan In Place For Customers, Vendors, and Employees
During a crisis situation like a hurricane, it’s important that you are able to maintain communication with customers, vendors and employees.
Hurricanes can cause interruptions to cell phone towers, landlines and internet VoIP systems. It’s a good idea to have a communication plan in place, thus making sure everyone who needs to communicate with your business still can.
The best way to do this is by hiring an outsourced call answering service, such as AnswerFirst.
Your customers, employees and vendors can still contact you, and their messages can be passed along to the proper individuals even if your standard methods of business communications have been disrupted.
This allows you to recover from a disaster quicker. It also minimizes communication interruptions that could otherwise cost your clients and customers thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
7. Make Sure You Have An Evacuation Plan In Place
Your employees are your business’ best asset – and you should always prioritize their safety over everything else. That’s why you should have an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) in place.
Your plan should be specifically focused on what to do if there is an impending hurricane.
Your EAP should outline:
- The conditions necessary for an evacuation to take place
- The actions expected of each employee during evacuation, including shutdown of operations, if necessary
- Specific evacuation routes and strategies to exit the building safely
- A designated meeting point, at which employees can stay safe and be counted to ensure there are none left behind
- Procedures for assisting those with special needs or disabilities during an evacuation
Regular drills and training are essential for developing an evacuation plan and an emergency action plan. Take a look at this tool from OSHA for more information, and to learn more about how to make your own EAP.
8. Invest In Emergency Supplies For Your Business
In some cases, it may not be possible to evacuate your employees or yourself from your business in time. The weather could be too severe and outdoor conditions could be too dangerous.
Because of this, you should consider keeping emergency supplies on-hand for you and your employees during hurricane season. This should include things like:
- A hand-crank or battery-operated emergency radio
- Non-perishable food supplies for you and your employees, lasting up to 3 days
- A 3 day supply of water (one gallon per person, per day)
- Blankets, pillows, foldable chairs, cots, sleeping bags
- First aid kids
- Flashlights and other light sources
- Tool kits
- A whistle or signal flare
- Tarps, plastic bags, and duct tape
- Fire extinguishers
- A generator and an adequate supply of fuel
You can learn more about proper hurricane emergency kits from FEMA here, and make sure that you and your employees are prepared for the worst-case scenario, where evacuation may be difficult or impossible.
Protect Your Employees, Your Assets And Your Company
Hurricane season brings with it a unique set of risks if you operate a business in a hurricane-prone area.
But with the information in this guide, you’ll be able to make sure you keep your business and your employees safe. And you’ll have a plan to help your business recover from a hurricane and get back to normal day-to-day operations. Think about how you can use this information now.