Hurricane Irma may make landfall this weekend as a Category 5 storm and may cause catastrophic wind and flooding damage. As owners of properties in Florida, there are steps that you can take to mitigate the dangers and risks to your property and belongings. While there’s no concrete way to lower the risk of a natural disaster from hurricanes and flood, there are critical measures that can be taken to protect your company’s bottom line. Having a disaster plan can help your business survive.
The most important thing is to listen to local officials, follow evacuation orders, and ensure your safety. Follow the following tips to help stay safe and prepare for the aftermath of Hurricane Irma and the expected flooding.
Preparing for Hurricanes:
1. Set up an emergency response plan and train employees how to carry it out. Make sure employees know who to notify about the disaster and what measures to take to ensure safety and limit property losses.
2. Write out each step of the plan and assign responsibilities to employees in clear and simple language. Practice the procedures set out in the emergency response plan with regular, scheduled drills.
3. Consider the things you may initially need during the emergency. Do you need a back-up source of power? Do you have a back-up communications system?
4. Decide on a communications strategy to prevent loss of customers. Post notices outside your premises; contact clients by phone, email or regular mail; and place a notice in local newspapers.
5. Protect employees and customers from injury on the premises. Consider the possible impact a disaster will have on your employees’ ability to return to work and how customers can return to your premises, or receive goods or services.
6. Compile a list of important phone numbers and addresses. Make sure you can get in touch with key people after the disaster. The list should include local and state emergency management agencies, major clients, contractors, suppliers, realtors, financial institutions, insurance agents and insurance company claim representatives.
7. Keep duplicate records. Back-up computerized data files regularly and store them off-premises. Keep copies of important records and documents in a safe deposit box and make sure they’re up to date.
8. Even if your business escapes a disaster, there is still a risk that the business could suffer significant losses due to the inability of suppliers to deliver goods or services, or because of a reduction in customers. Businesses should communicate with their suppliers and markets (especially if they are selling to a business as a supplier) about their disaster preparedness and recovery plans, so that everyone is prepared.
9. Protect your building. If you own the structure that houses your business, integrate disaster protection for the building as well as the contents into your plan. Consider the financial impact if your business shuts down as a result of a disaster. What would be the impact for a day, a week or an entire revenue period?
10. Identify critical business activities and the resources needed to support them. If you cannot afford to shut down your operations, even temporarily, determine what you require to run the business at another location.
11. Find alternative facilities, equipment and supplies, and locate qualified contractors. Consider a reciprocity agreement with another business. Try to get an advance commitment from at least one contractor to respond to your needs.
12. Protect computer systems and data. Data storage firms offer off-site backups of computer data that can be updated regularly via high-speed modem or through the Internet.
13. Make sure you have complete copies of all your insurance polices accessible to you.
Preparing for Floods:
1. Purchase flood board for your doors that you can install when flooding is imminent.
2. Seal floors to prevent water seeping up through the ground.
3. Fit non-return valves to drains and both inlet and outlet water pipes.
4. Install high shelving where you can store items when flooding is inevitable.
5. Raise electrical sockets, fuse boxes and wiring at least 12 inches above the 100-year flood level in your area.
6. Keep a pump in the basement or lowest level to remove flood water.
7. Compile a list of useful telephone numbers, including your local government and your insurer.
8. Learn how to shut off your gas, electricity and water.
9. Develop a flood continuity plan with suppliers and clients.
10. Designate an emergency flood contact.
11. Train your employees in correct flood safety procedures, and establish a safe meeting place in case you need to evacuate.
12. Stockpile useful materials like plastic sheeting, plywood, sandbags, nails, hammers and shovels.
Create a Flood Plan:
A flood plan is a written document outlining how your business will respond to a flood. It should include the following:
1. A list of important contact information and any additional flood warning systems, building services, suppliers and evacuation contacts.
2. A map showing location of supplies, protective materials and shut-off points.
3. An outline of basic strategies for protecting property, ensuring health and safety, minimizing business disruption and facilitating recovery.
4. Procedural checklists for staff to use during a flood.
5. Review and update your plan annually.
Tips from the CDC on how to stay safe before and after a hurricane.
Be Ready for Floods with these tips.