The Northeast has been fortunate to have experienced a lull in hurricane activity the past few years. However this year, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has revised their forecast to increase the likelihood of a more active season. NOAA now expects a 70 % chance of 12 – 17 named storms, of which 5 – 8 are expected to become hurricanes, including 2 – 4 major hurricanes. With the more active part of hurricane season in our sights, it is important to be prepared.Now is the time to put together an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) for your business in case a hurricane or major storm does make landfall in the Northeast later this this year. An EAP should include a pre-storm and post-storm plan with checklists to help you mitigate loss to your business and restore operations as quickly as possible following a storm.
If you already have an emergency action plan in place, take some time to review it once a year to ensure it reflects your present-day business. For example, your business may have expanded or relocated, you may have new management personnel, or you have new pieces of equipment to consider. An up-to-date EAP is essential to help ensure that your company’s response procedures are organized and well planned during workplace emergencies.
How to Prepare Before the Storm
Be sure to prepare your business before the storm, including setting up a “Go Box” for critical papers and information, including:
- Lists of all employees, key customers and clients along with their phone numbers and addresses
- Insurance policies and agent contact information
- Electronic data back-up
- Equipment, computer software/hardware, and furniture inventories
- A list of emergency vendors, such as plumbers and restoration contractors
- Copies of essential business policies, plans, and agreements
- Photographs of the business and equipment, both inside and out
Additionally, think ahead about what you would do if your buildings were unusable after a storm. Check your policy or with your independent insurance agent to know what your business interruption insurance will actually cover, and whether you will be compensated for lost income if your company has to leave its site because of disaster-related damage.
You should also consider other pre-storm steps to help secure business property:
- Inspect and make emergency repairs to drains and gutters
- Have all roof-mounted equipment such as HVAC units and exhaust vents properly strapped or anchored
- Install windstorm shutters or plywood over windows and doors
- Have the main electrical feeds to the facility disconnected to prevent a potential fire caused by short-circuiting of damaged equipment
- Take steps so that outdoor items will not blow away or cause damage:
- Remove all loose debris
- Anchor or relocating all nonessential equipment to a safe indoor location
- Secure storage of flammable liquid drums, or move them to a sheltered area
- Anchor all portable buildings to the ground
- Secure large cranes and other heavy equipment
- Make sure outdoor signs are properly braced
Recovering Quickly Following a Storm/Event
Finally, after the storm has passed, take the following steps to help get your business back to operational status as quickly as possible:
- Secure the site
- Survey the damage
- Survey for safety hazards such as live wires, leaking gas or flammable liquids, poisonous gases, and damage to foundations or underground piping and notifying the appropriate utility companies or emergency responders of any such safety hazards
- Repair damage to automatic sprinkler systems and get them back in service as soon as possible
- Call in key personnel and notify contractors to start repairs
- Begin salvaging business property as soon as possible to prevent further damage
- Cover broken windows and torn roof coverings immediately to prevent further damage
- Separate damaged goods, but beware of accumulating too much combustible debris inside of a building
- Clean roof drains and remove debris from the roof to prevent drainage problems
- Visually check any open bus bars, conductors and exposed insulators before restarting main electrical distribution systems.
To learn more about storm preparation, please contact your local Acadia agent. Download a copy of our storm preparedness checklist.