As a business owner, you’re expected to prepare for any events that could harm your business. This might include cybersecurity risks, vandalism, or natural disasters. More specifically, if you live on or near the coast in a state like Florida, Texas, North Carolina, or Louisiana, you have to be prepared for hurricanes. After all, hurricane season is a threat that runs from June to November every year, potentially causing damage businesses of all kinds. Keep in mind that hurricanes are considered the costliest type of natural disaster, with each hurricane causing over $22 billion in damage. You don’t want to be stuck paying even a fraction of that to repair your business after a storm.
Of course, preparing for hurricane season is not just about keeping your company’s physical assets safe from damage, but also ensuring the safety of all your employees. So this hurricane season, take the following steps for a chance to minimize your risks and ensure your business will weather any windstorm.
1. Create a Hurricane Plan
The first step of being prepared for a hurricane is coming up with a well-thought-out hurricane plan. This should outline specific actions to put into place before, during, and after a hurricane. The main parts of a hurricane plan should include:
- Emergency Response Team: Designate a team that’s responsible for an emergency response, and make sure its members are trained to handle different scenarios that could happen. Assign roles and responsibilities clearly so everyone knows what to do in case of a hurricane.
- Evacuation Plan: Find out if your business is in a high-risk hurricane zone. If it is, you should establish an evacuation plan for everyone in the building. Make sure your employees know the meeting points and evacuation routes to use.
- Secure Your Business Property: Put measures in place to safeguard your property and all belongings within it. This usually includes boarding up windows, reinforcing doors, and securing outdoor equipment so it doesn’t blow away or suffer water damage. If possible, invest in hurricane-resistant building materials and use them to improve your building enough to withstand strong winds.
- Communication Plan: Establish a clear plan that states how you will keep employees, customers, and business suppliers informed before, during, and after a hurricane. Make sure you have several methods of communication available to use, including email, phone, and social media accounts. This way, if one isn’t in service during the storm, you can use a different one.
- Data Backup: Regularly back up all of your important business data and store it offsite or in the cloud. Make sure that you have a disaster recovery plan to quickly restore your data and systems in case of storm damage.
2. Review and Update Your Business Insurance Coverage
Business insurance is an essential part of hurricane preparedness. You should review and update your insurance coverage to ensure it fully protects your business. Consider the following types of coverage:
- Property Insurance: Make sure your insurance covers property damage caused by hurricanes and other natural disasters that affect your area. Review your policy limits and deductibles to make sure they fit your needs. If not, consider paying for higher policy limits and ask how you can reduce your deductible if necessary.
- Business Interruption Insurance: This coverage can help make up for lost income and ongoing expenses if your business has to close due to hurricane damage. Make sure you understand any waiting periods or coverage limits on your policy.
- Flood Insurance: Standard property insurance usually excludes flood damage. So, if your business is located in a flood-prone area, consider buying a separate flood insurance policy that provides the coverage you need.
- Windstorm Insurance: In some coastal cities, you need windstorm insurance to cover damage specifically caused by the high winds from hurricanes.
- Review Insurance Policy Exclusions: Carefully read your policy exclusions and limitations, as some business insurance policies exclude certain types of hurricane-related damage. Look for any endorsements you can add to improve your policy.
3. Create a Business Continuity Plan
A business continuity plan outlines how your business will keep operating during and after a hurricane. It focuses on maintaining essential functions and services so you can stay open as long as possible. The main features of this type of plan are:
- Identify Critical Functions: Identify the most important functions and services that must continue during and after a hurricane. You should prioritize them and allocate your resources accordingly.
- Consider Remote Work Capability: Come up with remote work solutions so employees can keep working from safe locations when possible. Make sure they have access to all necessary equipment and data to keep working.
- Assess Your Supply Chain: Evaluate your supply chain and identify potential vulnerabilities. Diversify your company’s suppliers, if possible, and establish backup sources for all necessary materials or products.
- Consider Financial Resilience: Review your company’s financial situation and create a contingency plan. This may require you to set up an emergency fund or request a line of credit to cover all the expenses of running your business.
- Ensure Employee Safety: Develop policies and procedures that focus on maintaining the safety and well-being of your employees. This could include giving them information on evacuation routes, shelters, and emergency contacts.
4. Stockpile Emergency Supplies
To maintain operations during and after a hurricane, you need to stockpile emergency supplies. This should include necessities for keeping your employees safe and free of harm, as well as tools and equipment to enable recovery efforts. Make sure you have the following:
- Emergency Kits: Provide employees with emergency kits that include water, non-perishable food, flashlights, batteries, first aid supplies, and personal hygiene items.
- Tools and Equipment: Gather tools and equipment needed for cleanup and recovery, such as generators, chainsaws, shovels, and tarps.
- Fuel and Power: Make sure you have enough fuel to power your generators and vehicles, assuming you need them so you can keep running your business during and after a hurricane.
- Communication Devices: Have backup communication devices, such as two-way radios or satellite phones, in case traditional methods of communication don’t work during a storm.
5. Train Your Employees
Your hurricane preparedness plan will only be effective if your employees are prepared to use it. Regular training and education will ensure that everyone understands their role in the plan. Conduct training sessions and drills to cover the following:
- Evacuation Procedures: Ensure employees know how to safely evacuate the property and where to meet. Practice evacuation drills regularly.
- Emergency Contacts: Provide employees with a list of emergency contacts and procedures for reporting injuries or unsafe conditions.
- Data Security: Educate employees on the importance of data security, especially in the event of remote work or data recovery efforts.
- First Aid Training: Offer first aid training to employees so they can provide basic medical assistance in emergencies.
Hurricane season is a significant threat to businesses every year, but with careful planning and preparation, you can minimize your risks and protect both employees and business assets. Creating a comprehensive hurricane plan is a great start, followed by reviewing your business insurance coverage, gathering emergency supplies, and training employees. By being proactive in these ways, you can increase the odds that your business will survive hurricane season every year.