Businesses: What is your plan for this season’s Hurricane threat?
by Jim Satterfield, President, Firestorm
If you are a Business: What is your plan for this season’s Hurricane threat?
Read on for practical advice and resources
Business Disruption Scenarios
- Physical damage to a building buildings
- Damage to or breakdown of machinery, systems or equipment
- Restricted access to a site or building
- Interruption of the supply chain including failure of a supplier or disruption of transportation of goods from the supplier.
- Utility outage (e.g., electrical power outage)
- Damage to, loss or corruption of information technology including voice and data communications, servers, computers, operating systems, applications, and data
- Absenteeism of essential employees
Five Common Failures in a Disaster or Crisis
In the majority of organizations analyzed, Firestorm has found five common failures in a disaster or crisis.
The failure to:
- Control Critical Supply Chain. It is important to identify the internal and external dependencies of critical services or products.
- Train Employees for Work and Home. Firestorm has found that across most companies 95% of employees do not have a plan at home. If employees do not have a clear strategy for their families, an emergency or disaster can force them to choose between family and work. Family will always trump work.
- Identify and Monitor all Threats and Risks. Knowing the threats an organization will face enables it to manage the results and respond to those threats. Firestorm’s process identifies the potential threats, both natural and man-made.
- Conduct Exercises and Update Plans. Training converts written plans into actionable ones. By test exercising plans and their procedures, the problems or weaknesses identified will stimulate appropriate changes.
- Develop a Crisis Communications Plan. Effective communications is a crucial element in emergency/crisis management and should assume a central role in disaster preparedness. Proper communications establishes confidence in the ability of an organization to deal with a crisis and to bring about a satisfactory conclusion.
What is your plan for this season’s Hurricane threat?
• How will you deal with employee shortages due to a storm?
• Will suppliers be affected? Do you have a backup Supply Chain plan?
• Do you have an Employee Crisis Communication channel?
• Have you communicated to Customers?
• Remember the 48 hour “YOYO” rule: You’re On Your Own the first 48 hours immediately after a disaster
To start, each employer is responsible for the safety and health of its workers and for providing a safe and healthful workplace for its workers. Following Firestorm’s Predict.Plan.Perform methodology, first:
1. Determine Your Greatest Risk Potential. It could come from wind damage or flooding that typically follows a tropical storm’s heavy rains. Your business could potentially suffer financial losses due to road closures. Power outages are a major and realistic threat, especially to businesses in the food and hospitality industries. What would happen if you were forced to shut down your business for a couple of day? For a week? Look at your building- inside and out- assess the risks. Do you have a generator? Has your roof been inspected? Do you have impact resistant windows and doors?
2. Calculate Your Cost of Business Interruptions. Do this for one week, then for one month, then for the year. Next, investigate your insurance options and build a cash reserve that will allow your company to function during the post-hurricane recovery phase. Develop professional relationships with vendors: a roofing company, an electrical company, a plumbing company, a public adjuster, etc. Network now to assure you have immediate contacts when in need.
3. Review Your Insurance Coverage. Contact your insurance agent to find out if your policy is adequate for your needs. When buying insurance ask, “How much can I afford to lose?” It’s a good idea to know the value of your property. Floods are the leading cause of natural disaster losses in the United States according to the U.S. Geological Survey, and many property insurance policies do not cover flood damage. Consult an insurance expert.
4. Write a Crisis Communication Plan. This way you’ll be able to make sure your employees, customers, vendors, contractors and community know what’s going on and who’s doing what. Establish an e-mail or other technology alert system and make sure you have secondary email addresses for all your employees. Use social media – build a Facebook Page for your company and create a Twitter account to keep the public aware you’re still in business and in the process of recovering following the disaster.
Next, it’s important to have an evacuation plan in place to ensure that workers can get to safety in case a hurricane may affect the area. A thorough evacuation plan should include:
- Conditions that will activate the plan
- Chain of command
- Emergency functions and who will perform them
- Specific evacuation procedures, including routes and exits
- Procedures for accounting for personnel, customers and visitors
- Equipment for personnel
General Hurricane Preparations
All business owners and managers should develop basic hurricane awareness. You are responsible for planning to protect facilities and employees. Suggested prehurricane season planning activities are outlined below.
A. Employee Preparation
1. Determine which members of your staff you will need to carry out hurricane preparations and who you can reasonably expect to be available. Some employees may need to assist their own families or relatives in evacuating from threatened areas. You will probably need all of your building maintenance staff to prepare your facility for a hurricane. Regularly update your list of employee phone numbers and ensure each department head has a copy.
2. Develop a simple written plan which incorporates a set of Hurricane Task Assignments for your staff. Inputs regarding the tasks to be accomplished should be solicited from all of the various work centers at your facility.
Outline the specific tasks which must be performed to protect your facility during a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning, how they will be accomplished, and who will perform them.
It is probably desirable to develop teams for many tasks – a team to board up, a team to secure exterior equipment, and so forth. Staff members who will be performing unfamiliar tasks may need some instruction in these tasks and the use of any equipment that may be required to accomplish those tasks.
3. Outline your hurricane response plan and task assignments at a training session. Familiarization training should be conducted at the beginning of every hurricane season – and during the season if there is high staff turnover. Update team assignments on a regular basis.
B. Facility Preparation
1. If your facility is in a storm surge inundation zone or appears to be unsafe for occupancy during high winds, you may have to completely evacuate it. Identify essential business records that should be removed from the facility and determine where you plan to take them. Back up computer records on disk, tape, or cloud and move these with other essential records.
2. Review your list of major equipment and furnishings to determine which items need to be protected or removed and record how you plan to do it. The basic choice is to try to protect your equipment and furnishings in-place or move them out of the area which is at risk. In either case, determine what equipment and manpower will be needed to relocate these items. If you plan to protect equipment in-place, move it to well-protected interior rooms on floors above the level of potential flooding.
3. Identify outside equipment and furnishings which could be blown loose and may become deadly missiles in hurricane winds. Determine where they will be stored or how they will be secured in-place.
Among the items to be secured are any available outside merchandise, trash cans, signs, awnings, antennas and tools.
4. Strongly anchor any portable storage buildings.
5. Ensure rooftop equipment such as exhaust fans, wind turbines, and air conditioning units are securely fastened or strapped down to the roof deck.
6. If the roof is a composition roof with a gravel covering, remove loose gravel to preclude damage to unprotected windows by stones being blown off of the roof.
7. Ensure that members of your staff know how to turn off the electrical power, water, gas, and other utility services within your building at main switches.
1. Obtain several battery-operated radios and spare batteries to be ensured you can receive emergency information. It is desirable to have at least one radio on site which can receive National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio frequencies. Weather radios with a tone alert capability are a very effective way of receiving reports of significant changes in weather conditions.
2. Procure sufficient flashlights and other battery powered lights to allow essential work to be conducted in the event of power outage. Ensure a good supply of fresh batteries is on hand throughout the hurricane season.
3. Compile a disaster supply kit and have this ready for emergencies with contents such as: foods, (canned goods, non-perishable, ready to eat), water (one gallon per person per day), manual can opener and other eating utensils, personal hygiene items such as soap, deodorant, shampoo, toothbrush and toothpaste, toilet paper, first aid kit, and manual, fire protection equipment or fire extinguisher, rain-wear, gloves, and blankets.
4. If you do not have storm shutters, ensure you have the necessary tools to board up windows and brace doors. The first priority in protecting your facility will be to keep the wind out. Wind pressure and windblown debris can break windows and blow in doors. Sliding glass doors, large picture windows, skylights, French doors, inward opening double doors, and garage doors are particularly vulnerable. Such tools as a circular or hand saw, a drill with appropriate bits, a hammer or nail gun, hand or power-driven screwdriver, and a wrench may be needed. Nails will be sufficient on wood-framed windows and doors but screws or bolts and washers are necessary for metal-framed windows and doors.
5. Have an ample supply of brooms, squeegees, mops, and absorbents to remove water.
6. A small emergency generator could be useful. The power may go out before a hurricane comes ashore and may be out for an extended period. An emergency generator could provide the capability to maintain lighting, recharge battery-powered equipment, and power pumps and tools which may be needed for expedient repairs after the hurricane passes.
D. Recommended Supplies
1. Plywood (preferably 5/8 inch thick exterior type) to cover large windows and glass doors which can be blown in by hurricane force winds. If possible, obtain plywood before hurricane season begins and precut it to size, mark each panel to identify where it goes, and store it until needed.
2. Sufficient lumber to brace inward-opening exterior doors and roll-up doors on the inside. Boards should be 2 x 4’s or larger.
3. Waterproof tape (duct tape or filament tape) to help protect the smaller windows in your facility from powerful wind gusts and flying debris. Apply tape in a crisscross pattern.
4. Tie-down material (rope or chain) for outside furnishings and equipment that can’t be moved.
5. Heavy duty plastic sheeting (4 mil thickness or greater), furring strips, and a nail or staple gun to be used to make expedient roof and window repairs. Plastic sheeting can also be used to cover and protect equipment in the event of roof damage or leaks.
6. A supply of sandbags may be helpful in preventing intrusion of water through doorways into low-lying sections of buildings. Sandbagging can be very time consuming. It takes two people about an hour to fill and place 100 sandbags creating a wall only a foot high and 20 feet long.
7. It is suggested that you stockpile the emergency supplies needed during the hurricane season. Many of the listed items rapidly disappear from retail outlets when a hurricane threatens.
To learn more and be better prepared, download our excellent Post-Sandy Hot Wash paper for a great “Lessons Learned” brief, and consider sharing our ebook, “Disaster Ready people For a Disaster Ready America” with all of your employees.
Article Sources and Resources:
- American Society of Safety Engineers Urge Businesses, Communities to Prepare Now for Hurricane Season (doc)
- AMERICAN SOCIETY OF SAFETY ENGINEERS OFFER BUSINESS, COMMUNITY EMERGENCY PREPARATION INFORMATION FOR HURRICANE SEASON
- American Society of Safety Engineers Offer Clean-Up Tips for Flood-Related Mold (doc)
- Mold Clean-Up Tips (ppt)
- Workplace Emergency and Crisis Preparation Checklist
- Key Resources for Emergency Preparedness and Response
- Homeland Security Department’s Emergency Preparedness Quiz