Hurricanes and tropical storms can occur in a variety of locations across the United States at any time from May through November, causing extensive wind, water, and flood damage. If you’re located in the hurricane zone, you should have an emergency action plan that is specific to your business and addresses key activities to undertake before, during, and after the storm. Reviewing and updating your plan periodically will help you set priorities for future seasons and allocate resources so that you can better protect your business from damage and quickly recover.
As you develop your business’s emergency action plan, be sure to identify who will be responsible for specific activities, such as monitoring weather conditions, shutting down operations, or sending staff home. Conducting practice drills will help prepare your employees to calmly and effectively carry out your plan during a real emergency.
While plans can vary depending on business type, size, or location, below we have outlined some key activities every business can use as a starting point. Review the checklists below, and work with your agent or broker, staff, and your insurer to identify other important activities for your specific business.
Getting Ready Before Hurricane Season
Complete these activities well in advance of hurricane season:
- Maintain an up-to-date list of names, telephone numbers, and other contact information (e.g., cellphone numbers, email addresses) for staff, local police and fire departments, hospitals, utilities, contractors, and vendors.
- Establish a process for communicating important information to employees so they know when to stay at home or report back to work (via radio, email, telephone, etc.).
- Arrange backup communications, such as two-way radios or cellphones.
- Arrange an off-site emergency communications control center, such as a hotel meeting room, outside the hurricane area, in case it becomes too dangerous to remain on-site.
- Identify important records, equipment, stock, and business processes. Determine how you will protect your property from damage and when to shut down systems.
- Store or make advanced arrangements to have emergency supplies and equipment available on-site, such as:
- Three-day supply of drinking water and nonperishable food
- Medical supplies/first-aid kits, blankets, and extra clothing
- Flashlights, two-way radios, cellphones, and batteries
- An emergency generator and extra fuel
- Portable pumps and hoses
- Lumber, plywood, nails, sand bags, anchor straps, plastic covers, and tarps
- Hand and power tools
- Keep your facility in good condition. Inspect and repair roofs, windows, drains, and gutters. Keep roofs clear of debris and anchor signs and other roof-mounted equipment. Trim or remove trees that could fall and damage property or power lines.
Preparing for an Impending Hurricane
Complete these activities as the hurricane approaches:
- Ensure emergency supplies and equipment are on hand and immediately accessible.
- Verify that fire protection equipment and backup devices (including generators, radios, and phones) are working.
- Shut down operations that depend on outside power sources, following established procedures.
- Obtain cash for post-hurricane needs such as buying food and supplies or paying employees and contractors.
- Shut off main gas valves, disconnect electricity, and turn off all noncritical equipment.
- Protect and/or relocate vital business records, equipment, stock, and machinery.
- Latch exterior doors and windows and cover with hurricane shutters, plywood, or tape.
- Inspect your facility grounds and remove debris, and relocate or secure equipment.
Staying Safe During a Storm
In the midst of the hurricane, staying safe is the top priority. If safe to do so, focus your business efforts on activities that are critical to operations.
- Notify local authorities if you allow personnel to stay on-site.
- Check the facility for roof leaks, broken pipes, fire, or structural damage. Be sure to stay indoors while doing so.
- Monitor boilers that must remain online.
- If power fails, turn off electrical switches until necessary checks are complete to protect against power surges and spikes, which can damage equipment.
- In the event of an emergency, follow all directions provided by authorities.
Addressing Risks After a Hurricane
When it is safe to leave your shelter, survey your facility and contact your agent or broker and insurer to report any damage.
- Secure site entry points (e.g., fences, gates, doors, windows) and arrange additional security, if needed, to prevent unauthorized access to your property.
- Look for safety hazards such as live electrical wires, leaking gas, and exposed flammable liquids or corrosive/toxic materials and damage to building foundations or underground piping. Contact experienced contractors or specialists to assist if needed.
- Repair or replace any damaged automatic sprinkler or other fire protection systems as soon as possible.
- Contact vendors to begin cleanup and repairs. Clear drains, remove debris, cover broken windows, and patch damaged roofs.