Tropical Storm Colin made landfall on Monday, causing heavy rainfall and damage from Florida to North Carolina. This is the earliest that the third named storm of the year has ever formed, which may or may not mean something for this year’s hurricane season. Although the damage caused by this storm was minimal, it is a good reminder that although past hurricane seasons have been quiet, we cannot anticipate what this current season will bring. This is why hurricane preparedness is important and should be a top priority for businesses that could be potentially affected.
It is generally a good thing that the past 10 hurricane seasons have been quiet. This fact does, however, pose some challenges. Since it has been so long since a hurricane has caused major destruction, people cannot relate to this threat or have accepted the quiet seasons as a normality. Many people call this “hurricane amnesia”. Warnings may not be taken seriously and businesses may not properly prepare because they don’t think it will actually happen to them. In addition, first responders, business owners, and residents in at-risk areas may not have firsthand experience with a destructive storm if they have relocated to these areas within the last 10 years. When hurricanes don’t happen, people forget about them. Emergency preparedness should be ongoing to ensure this does not happen.
Hurricane Watch/Hurricane Warning
Knowing the difference between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning is imperative when monitoring an incoming storm. When a watch has been issued, it means that a storm has become a threat and businesses should monitor the situation and be prepared to take action if a warning is issued. During this time, businesses can begin to secure or store equipment, but the most important task during a watch is to monitor news and weather channels in order to be notified of any changes in the intensity or direction of the storm.
If a hurricane warning is issued, it is because the storm is anticipated to exhibit hurricane force winds, dangerously high water, and rough seas. The threat is imminent at this time. Once notified of this warning, you should close your business and precautionary actions should begin immediately.
Preparing Your Business
Knowing the vulnerability of your business is key when preparing for a destructive storm, both geographically and structurally. Hurricanes can lead to blackouts, lightening damage, and flooding, and even if your business is not directly on the water, you can be indirectly effected. All businesses should have a hurricane preparedness plan, especially if the workplace resides in an evacuation or contingency zone. Your business should also make sure that employees are aware of all evacuation routes, shelters, and emergency response plans, while making sure the proper employees and crisis team members are trained on these plans. All employees should know their responsibilities when it comes to preparing the business for a storm.
A work-from-home plan should be set in place in the event that your facilities are damaged and an alternative location is not available. You also need to anticipate that some employees may not be able to return to work in the near future or at all, depending on personal damage. This also demonstrates the need to have backup crisis team members trained and ready to take action under these circumstances.
Have supplies ready that will be used to prepare both your home and business in case of a hurricane warning. Examples of such supplies are:
- Lumber and plywood to cover windows if storm shutters are not available. You should also have a look at using something like these Oahu High Impact Windows to help prevent damage.
- Waterproof tape to protect smaller windows
- Tie-down materials for outside furnishings and/or equipment that cannot be relocated
- Sandbags to prevent water intrusion in the event of flooding
- Plastic sheeting for quick repairs and to protect equipment
- Emergency kit with supplies (battery operated flashlights and radios, water, first aid kit, etc.)
If a Hurricane Warning is Issued:
- Close your business immediately and allow all employees to leave to prepare their homes and families with the exception of those needed for emergency response.
- Relocate and/or backup all data and equipment that can be moved to a safer location.
- Turn off all electricity, gas, water, and other utility services in your building.
- Move furnishings away from windows and doors.
- Board up windows and brace doors if you don’t have storm shutters. (Some regular shutters can protect your home from a storm in a crisis situation too, why not visit a site like shuttercraft.co.uk)
A destructive hurricane will occur in the future, however there is no way to know what the current season will have in store. The only way to ensure your business is ready when it happens is to have an ongoing emergency preparedness program that is continuously trained on and updated. For more information on hurricane preparedness and the current hurricane season, watch a recording of a recent Preparis webinar featuring Mike Smith, Senior Vice President and Chief Innovation Executive for AccuWeather Enterprises.