How to prepare your business for a hurricane
- Hurricane season starts June 1, so start now to protect your business from hurricane damage, following these 5 steps
- Learn how to pre-plan for safe data storage.
- Make provisions to protect your people, in case the storm arrives sooner than expected. Here’s what to stockpile.
- Follow these steps to protect your building exterior and interior, along with contents, from wind and flooding.
Hurricane season starts June 1, but as the Weather Channel noted, the last six hurricane seasons started early. Last year, it was mid-May. A hurricane’s path of devastation may be wide and ongoing for days, sometimes more than a week. For this reason, we’re arming you ahead of time with tips and advice on how to protect your business from hurricane damage. You’ll want to add these tips to your business continuity plan.
By starting your planning early, business owners can take time to thoughtfully work through every action that needs to take place. Some 40 percent of small businesses that close due to hurricane damage never reopen. You don’t want to be in that segment!
The National Hurricane Survival Initiative has created a business survival plan to serve as a comprehensive guide to safeguarding a business. It includes steps to improve employee safety plus protect property and company data.
Using these guidelines will not only protect your business from hurricane damage, but also ensure you’re prepared to handle any damages following any disaster. Furthermore, they recommend that you choose a back-up location where your business could run smoothly if damages occur on the original site and discuss this with all employees. If your business is damaged, be sure to assess, document and report losses to your insurance company as soon as possible.
More than just knowing hurricane routes out of town, here are a number of critical steps you need to think through, to protect your business from hurricane damage.
1. Pre-plan for safe data storage
Since there’s typically advance warning when a hurricane approaches, it’s important to transport your data quickly and at the first sign of trouble.
- Ensure your data is backed up regularly and stored in a facility that’s secure and dependable.
- If you use a recovery services vendor, store your data near this vendor.
- If your recovery window is extremely short, consider using electronic vaulting technology. Electronic vaulting allows data to be transferred to an alternate recovery site in mere minutes.
These measures, many of which are courtesy of National Hurricane Survival Initiative, will ensure that your data is where you need it to be in a recovery.
2. Protect your people
Particularly with the onset of COVID-19, our workforces are scattered. Some work onsite; some work remotely; still others are traveling.
- Have HR keep track of where each employee typically works and if employees travel, keep track of their travel schedule.
- Create a mass notification system – a central number to call or text, or text messages or emails that are sent out, or a website for employees to check, so that everyone receives notice quickly.
- Create an evacuation plan that includes entrances/exits, stairs, elevators, parking lots and access to the nearest evacuation route.
3. Protect your property
- Keep an up-to-date inventory of what’s in your premises, including inventory.
- Install shutters or plywood to protect windows and doors from blowing debris.
- Have your roof evaluated to ensure it can withstand a storm.
- Remove any branches or trees adjacent to your building that could potentially fall and damage it.
- Sandbag any areas subject to flooding.
- Anchor and brace any large furniture (bookcases, shelves, filing cabinets) to wall studs.
- Relocate any valuable or fragile possessions.
- Secure all utilities including water heaters, gas tanks and heaters; if necessary, raise them to higher locations to avoid water damage.
- Consider adding gasoline powered pumps to keep the building free from flooding.
- Secure electronics such as computers and other office equipment with straps or Velcro.
- Turn off all the utilities prior to a hurricane making landfall if possible.
4. Protect important documents and information
- Designate important contacts to save that are crucial to business operations, such as employees, banks, lawyers, accountants, suppliers, etc.
- Back up documents that are not easily produced such as insurance documents, legal contracts, tax returns and accounting statements to avoid water damage.
- Seal these documents in waterproof containers onsite.
- Save all your designated contacts and documents in an alternate, accessible off-site location.
5. Use a Preparedness Checklist to protect your business from hurricane damage
The below items should be gathered in one location at your place of business should a storm hit while you are on premises. This will help protect the safety of your employees should disaster strike during regular working hours and without ample notice.
- Battery-operated radio or television
- Non-perishable three-day food supply for you and your employees
- Three-day supply of water for you and your employees (one gallon of water per person, per day)
- Coolers and containers for water and washing
- Blankets, pillows, cots and chairs
- First aid kit and first aid manual
- Flashlights, batteries, light-sticks
- Tool kit (basic tools, gloves, etc.)
- Camera and film for documenting damages
- Whistle/signal flare to signal for help
- Tarps, plastic bags, duct tape
- Cleaning supplies, including mops, towels and garbage cans
- Smoke alarms and fire extinguishers
- Electric generator
- Gas for vehicles, generators and other equipment
- Cash, ATM cards, credit cards proper identification
- Emergency contact information such as the nearest hospital and police, along with:
- Life safety issues: 9-1-1
- Small Business Administration (SBA): 1-800-359-2227
- FEMA tele-registration hot-line: 1-800-462-9029
- Insurance company and agent’s contact information
For more information about how to protect your business from hurricane damage, download FEMA’s Business Toolkit or FEMA’s “Every Business Should Have a Plan” booklet for tips and further examples of steps you can take to prepare your business.