Much like tax day, the start of the hurricane season is remarked upon, but never fondly. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Atlantic basin is likely to experience 3 to 6 major hurricanes this year. “Major” means a Category 3 or higher; for reference, Hurricane Isabel of 2003 was a Category 2 when it made landfall in Virginia.
Unfortunately, we can’t do a thing about what hurricanes will or won’t strike us, how hard they’ll hit or how much damage they’ll do. But we can prepare our businesses for the impact of hurricane season. Here are a few tips:
- Know your risk. Your location will affect how vulnerable you are to a hurricane, especially if you’re close to sea level or near an evacuation route. If you’ve been in your location since 2003, look back to see what kind of damage your building sustained during Isabel. Also, make sure your building has adequate construction, especially on its roof, and check to make sure any existing leaks or weaknesses are repaired.
- Check your insurance. Review your business’s insurance policies to make sure they cover natural catastrophes, and to make sure they’re up-to-date in terms of your firm’s assets, location and size. One of the main impacts from a hurricane is flooding, but most policies don’t cover flood damage. You’ll need to contact the National Flood Insurance Program for that.
- Have a plan, and a leader. The Federal Emergency Management Administration has a thorough guide to creating a disaster preparedness plan at www.ready.gov/business. Designate an emergency task leader, an officer of the company with the knowledge and authority to make good decisions in a crisis and have those decisions followed. Have all the company officers keep a copy of the plan at their homes, on paper as well as in digital format. Part of the emergency task leader’s job will be to monitor potential hurricanes and contact other officers.
- Keep people informed. If your company has fewer than 35 employees, create a phone tree. For larger companies, consider having a call-in voicemail recording to keep employees up to date. Remember to reactivate the phone tree or change the voicemail message as new decisions are made.
- Don’t forget your supply chain. In today’s world, your suppliers can be next door—or on the other side of the world. If a hurricane avoids Hampton Roads, it might go on to hit an area that’s crucial to your operations. Be aware of the disaster conditions your suppliers and purchasers might be facing, and try to develop relationships across a variety of locations to reduce your risk.
What plans are you making for hurricane season? Do you think this year might be as bad as is predicted, or worse, or better? Let us know in the comments!
Written by: Catherine Cantieri