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June 06, 2018

Preparing Your Business for Hurricane Season

The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season forecast calls for the number of named storms and hurricanes to be near historical averages.

 

A total of 14 named storms (including six hurricanes and two major hurricanes) are expected this season – which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30 – according to a forecast prepared by Colorado State University.

 

The forecast is very close to what is considered an average season – 12 named storms, 6.5 hurricanes and two major hurricanes (a major hurricane is category 3 or stronger). The U.S. averages between one to two hurricane landfalls each season, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

 

The Colorado State team bases its forecasts on more than 60 years of historical data that includes Atlantic sea surface temperatures, sea level pressures, vertical wind shear levels (the change in wind direction and speed with height in the atmosphere), El Nino (warming of waters in the central and eastern tropical Pacific), and other factors.

 

The best time to respond to a hurricane truly is before it happens. A relatively small investment of time and money now may prevent severe damage and disruption of life and business in the future.

 

As a risk manager, you have several tough questions to consider: What if the worst happened? How would it affect business? Would we survive if the business were closed down for weeks, months, or perhaps the entire revenue season? What can I do to make sure we survive?

 

Here is a common-sense checklist:

 

1. Is your business vulnerable to flooding or severe wind damage? You can map the flood risk to your business at https://msc.fema.gov/portal/search. Know the elevation of your building, and have it inspected by a licensed professional to make sure the roof and other building connections comply with the wind loading requirements for your area. If your building has large expanses of glass, consider using impact-resistant glass or impact resistant film products to protect your investment.

 

2. What precautions can you take? Cover non-impact-resistant windows with shutters or plywood. Cover and move your equipment and furniture to a secured area. Protect all data by making backup files and storing the duplicates away from the area that could be affected by the storm. Make provisions for alternate communications and power, especially if your business cannot shut down during the course of the emergency. Be prepared to have limited access to normal banking services. Plan on losing water, sewer, electrical and phone service. Stockpile emergency supplies. Prepare a list of vendors and telephone numbers critical to daily operations.

 

3. What about your staff? Prepare a list of all employees, including telephone numbers and addresses and any location where they may go if they plan to evacuate. Most employees will need time to attend to their families. If your business must operate during a storm, provide good shelter. If you will need to get back to work quickly after a storm, and need critical employees to do so, plan on helping them meet their personal needs.

 

4. Who do you need to keep informed? If you will need to shut down during an emergency, make sure your customers and suppliers know what is happening. If necessary and possible, arrange for telephone, fax and other communication to be rerouted if your lines go out.

 

5. How do you manage your insurance? Prepare a list of carriers and policy numbers, as well as contact information for your agent and their claims office. Have your business appraised at least every five years. Inventory, document, and photograph equipment, supplies and the workplace. Have copies of insurance policies. Purchase business-interruption insurance and consider adding coverage to protect against lost revenues. Remember that flood coverage often requires a separate policy.

 

6. What can you do after the storm? Be cautious about entering your business, even if it appears undamaged. Check power lines, gas service, and the building’s structure. If any electrical equipment is wet, have it checked by an electrician before turning on the power. Keep careful track of all losses and damage-related expenditures. Obtain independent estimates of damage. Document all losses with photographs or video. Don’t wait for an adjuster to arrive before making emergency repairs. Try to avoid additional damage – board up broken windows to prevent additional rain damage and looting.

 

 

Contact the Small Business Administration for more disaster preparedness tips at www.sba.gov.

 

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