By: Martha Wik, CHMM, ASP

The threat of hurricanes, tornadoes, and damaging thunderstorms increase during the summer months. Some may be a minor nuisance causing workers to be late, but getting caught in the middle of one of these storms can cause a business to be down for quite a while.

How should you prepare for a catastrophic weather event?

The very first thing you want to do is check your insurance policy and make sure you have adequate coverage in the event of a catastrophic event. If you are in an area that is prone to hurricanes or tornadoes, it may not be a bad idea to make this an annual event.

If the weather event happens during work hours, do you evacuate the building? Do you have a place inside the building to shelter your employees?  If you are in an area prone to tornadoes, which can often hit without warning, you should have an area for your employees that will protect them.

If you have a fleet of vehicles, the best way to protect them is through a storage area. You should make sure that this area is not prone to flooding, as many storms bring in a lot of rain, wind, and hail.  You may want to move your vehicles to higher ground and have some form of protection around the vehicles.  Take a look at the trees in the area.  If there are tall trees that could land on the vehicles, you may want to park the vehicles away from the drop zone.

Another factor to take into consideration is that power could be out for a few days, which means no computers, no refrigeration, no internet, and possibly no phone service. How can you conduct business? It is important to ensure that you have enough supplies to work manually until the power is restored.  Remember, your suppliers could also be affected by the same storm and may not be able to make their usually deliveries.  You may want to make sure you have a few extra days of supplies available just in case.

Another detail that could be affected by the storms would be security. If you rely solely on cameras and alarms, your building may no longer be protected.  Will your fire alarms work if the power is out?  If you are able to open up, you may need to staff the building during the off shift to supplement your security protocols.

It’s also important to remember that although the storm may not have caused severe damage to your place of business, your employees could be struggling. They may need the time off to remove trees from their homes or find somewhere else to live. They may need more time off than your company allows.  You should have a plan in place for how you will deal with that situation if it happens.

Remember, if there is damage, contact your insurance company and make a claim as soon as possible. The sooner you do this, the sooner it can be processed. Remember, in a weather event like a hurricane, devastating tornado, even an earthquake, your claim can be among hundreds of others that are submitted to the insurance company.

Be Safe!

Martha Wik is the Occupational Safety Content Manager for eRisk Solutions.