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July 01, 2016

Is Your Business Prepared for a Hurricane?

The 2016 Atlantic hurricane season forecast calls for the number of named storms and hurricanes to be slightly above historical averages.

 

According to the most recent forecast from Colorado State University, a total of 15 named storms - including six hurricanes and two major hurricanes (with winds at 111 miles per hour or more) - are expected before the season ends Nov. 30. The total includes the four storms that have developed already this year.

 

The forecast is close to the 30-year average of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes. A major hurricane is one that is Category 3 or stronger on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

 

The U.S. averages between one to two hurricane landfalls each season, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Atlantic storms, among the most powerful on Earth, can exact a high toll in human life and cause billions of dollars in property damage.

 

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 in inspected by a licensed professional to make sure the roof and other building connections comply with the wind loading requirements in your area. If your building has large expanses of glass, consider using impact-resistant film products to protect your investment.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

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