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Protect your business by preparing for severe weather before it happens

TornadoSevere weather can come quickly and without much warning. While you might think there isn’t much you can do to protect yourself and your business from severe weather, we’ll show you steps you can take to save lives, property, and money.

Reasons to prepare now
According to Preparedness Research Findings, only 20 percent of the U.S. population feels prepared for a catastrophic event, with nearly 60 percent feeling they’re completely unprepared.

For businesses, 15–40 percent fail following a disaster. In addition, 94 percent of small business owners feel a disaster could seriously disrupt their business in the next two years.

The steps you take now in preparing for severe weather could save your business in the future. We’ll help you get ready.

Weather watches and warnings
One basic step to take is to make sure your staff is educated on severe weather watches and warnings.

A watch, such as a severe thunderstorm watch, means there is a potential for severe weather. Weather conditions are right for such an event to take place.

A severe weather warning means bad weather is approaching, and shelter should be sought immediately.

Keep a weather radio at your business where employees can monitor the situation and be updated on severe weather alerts.

Develop an emergency plan
It’s always a good idea to have an emergency plan in place so you and your employees know what to do when severe weather strikes and don’t waste valuable time. Here are four steps to take:

  1. Establish a planning team: Pick a team leader, include key employees from each department, and establish a schedule and budget.
  2. Analyze capabilities and hazards: Review current plans and policies, locate outside resources (i.e., the fire department), and identify hazards that might occur.
  3. Develop the plan: Establish the goal of the plan, assign responsibilities, and plan actions for each type of possible emergency.
  4. Implement the plan: Educate the rest of the staff on the plan through safety posters, training sessions, email newsletters, and drills.

Advanced preparation
In an earlier blog post, we covered what you should do to prepare for power failures and why you need to back up digital files. Here are some other steps to take before a storm strikes to help secure property, save time, and keep expenses down:

  • Prune trees
  • Ensure that any construction meets or exceeds local codes
  • Perform regular maintenance on buildings and property
  • Practice good housekeeping to reduce exposure
  • Keep non-perishable emergency supplies on hand
  • Have a battery-operated radio available (with additional batteries)
  • Make sure storage areas are labeled

When bad weather is on the way
With advanced meteorological equipment, we’re given more warning and time than ever before. Use that to your advantage. Have your weather radio—or any radio—on and listen to the warnings. If a severe storm is headed your way:

  • Unplug electrical equipment
  • Test all emergency/back-up equipment
  • Ensure the safety of your employees
  • Familiarize everyone with the emergency plan

When the storm is in progress, stay in the planned safe area. Monitor local warnings and limit phone usage for emergencies only. Don’t go outside until the weather has cleared.

After a storm
Once it’s safe to do so, evaluate the damage. Look for structural damage, but don’t enter any buildings if it’s not safe to do so. Also check for damaged power lines, gas lines, and water and sewer pipes.

Once those steps are taken, secure your business but don’t turn the equipment back on yet. Contact disaster agencies if necessary.

When it comes to restoring your business, be sure to contact your insurance company as soon as possible. Remember, be proactive during this process. Keep the lines of communication open and be available to your employees.

You want to keep your business running during this time, if possible, so here are some suggestions for making that happen:

  • Forward business phones to cell phones
  • Convert undamaged structures to usable space
  • Use temporary structures or alternate locations
  • Rent equipment to continue operations
  • Reschedule contracted work
  • Hire short-term staff to accelerate restoration
  • Update status on your website and social media
  • Advertise that you’re open for business.

Using the steps mentioned above, make a reasonable effort to resume complete or partial operations as soon as possible. And cooperate with your insurance company. You want your business back up and running as soon as possible. There’s no reason for avoidable roadblocks along the way.

Review your insurance coverage
The time to check the details of your insurance coverage is before you need to use it, not after. When reviewing your policy, you should be asking:

  • Do I have enough coverage to rebuild my structures?
  • Do I have enough personal property coverage to replace everything I could possibly lose?
  • How does my policy address business income loss?
  • Does my policy cover extra expenses I incur to keep my business running after a storm?

The questions above should be addressed when opening a policy. However, there are also things to keep in mind as a policyholder after disaster strikes.

In addition to notifying your insurance company as soon as possible, you should take measures to protect your property from further damage. Don’t forget to document the losses, either with photos or video.

This is a lot to take in. But with some planning and practice, you and your business will be better prepared for severe weather. If you have any questions along the way, your Hortica agent is ready to help.