Hurricane Barry recently dumped heavy rain and caused dangerous flooding in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas, our first hurricane of the 2019 season. “For 2019, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a likely range of 9 to 15 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 4 to 8 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 2 to 4 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher). NOAA provides these ranges with a 70% confidence.” Early preparation is vital to stay safe before, during and after a hurricane event, especially with this year’s hurricane prediction.
Hopefully, your business has a well thought out Business Continuity Plan (BCP) that can be engaged in the event of a weather emergency. If your business does not have a well-practiced disaster plan, take action now. We recommend creating an emergency planning team comprised of managers and staff who are well versed in the disaster response plan. They should focus on collaborating to identify possible emergency scenarios and plan the steps and actions to safely respond. While not all-inclusive, below are a few factors to keep in mind during a weather-related disaster:
- Employees: Creating a culture of workplace safety that includes a disaster preparedness plan is not only a best practice, but it can also save lives. Ensure your disaster plan includes an evacuation plan and become familiar with your evacuation routes. Employees should know what the evacuation plan is; all the locations of egress and the evacuation plan must be practiced regularly. It is recommended to post easy-to-understand evacuation routes and shelter locations in common areas so employees can see this information often and can quickly recall the information. Also, always actively listen to authorities for information on post weather emergency instructions and disseminate throughout your company as needed. During a disaster, tension and emotions are high, so it is crucial for your employees to feel prepared for disasters and have a sense of security while at work. So, after the disaster, plan on how employees will return to work. Acknowledge that finding employees to work following a disaster may be a challenge. They may be caring for family members or busy securing food and shelter. Plan ahead and set up on-call staffing from communities outside the impacted area to ensure you are covered. If cell service goes down, equip key personnel with satellite phones to aid in communication and recovery efforts.
- Securing Assets: Whether a disaster is natural or manmade, you can prepare the facility ahead of time. Some areas that need attention are windows, HVAC units, and dumpsters. High winds can blow HVAC units and dumpsters around, causing severe damage to your property and your neighbors’. The IT department should have offsite back-up servers or cloud storage for business continuity. If a governor declares a State of Emergency, please note that local law enforcement officers are not available for off-duty jobs—even if the work was previously scheduled; they are required to be on-call for search and rescue, evacuations, door-to-door checks and maintaining public safety. It may offer peace of mind for your facility to have law enforcement on-site during a disaster. To ensure you have these resources available during a natural disaster partner with a vendor that can deploy trained and qualified teams to guard assets or even help you mobilize a command center, which can monitor assignments, replenish food and water and check in on the officers scheduled at each location.
- Business Disruption: As soon as it is safe, it is recommended that managers should be onsite to inspect the property. Some key areas to be checked are electrical power, water, fuel, telecommunications, waste management, and additional hazards. If damage has been detected, coordinating an immediate response will ensure a quick road to recovery. Call in-house technicians or trusted vendors to remedy the issues with the goal of re-opening the facility as quickly as possible.
- Reputation Management: People who live in the impacted area will want life to return to normal as quickly as possible. That includes returning to work and relying on their local retailers and services to be open for business. Having a disaster plan in place expedites reopening, increases customer confidence in your brand and creates brand equity and loyalty. Also, being involved in the community clean up can greatly boost morale within your organization and the brand image within the area.
Having a well-practiced disaster recovery plan that covers all the steps and actions to take before, during and after a disaster gives you the best chance of a speedy recovery. The time to start planning is now—hurricane season is underway.