After four years of relative quiet in the US, 2017 was the costliest hurricane season ever and insured losses in 2018 were still double the long-term average, according to Munich Re. With the latest forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Colorado State University indicating that “near-normal” activity should be expected during the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season, businesses must properly plan and prepare for the potential effects of upcoming storms. And as you do so, you should incorporate the following lessons learned from 2017 and 2018’s major storms.
Renata Elias, Consultant, Marsh Risk Consulting Strategic Risk Practice
Prepare for Water Damage
Beyond structural damage that could be caused by powerful winds, recent storms have reminded us of the destruction that can be wrought by water. To prevent or limit the spread of water, gather and deploy sandbags and other supplies before a storm, while also protecting valuable equipment and property and relocating hazardous materials. When a storm is imminent, set elevators above basement level to prevent floodwaters from compromising their operations. And once the storm’s over, check all electrical systems and equipment for damage. Keep any systems that have been exposed to water turned off until they have been dried, cleaned, and approved for restart.
Don’t Take Communications for Granted
Audio and video conferencing technologies have become valuable tools during normal businesses operations, and you might plan to rely on them during and after a crisis. But such technologies could be disrupted by storms — and even if they’re not, it might be difficult for employees to share or access login and dial-in information if they’re experiencing power outages and/or have limited internet and mobile phone access.
More traditional communication methods might be your best bet. Before a storm, establish toll-free numbers and emergency notification systems for employees to access. Update contact information for all employees and consider providing local leadership with satellite phones. And test your communications strategies before a crisis strikes.
Aid Your People
Employee assistance hasn’t always been the primary post-storm consideration for businesses. But remember that your workers might feel the effects of a storm more acutely than your organization, in the form of damage to their homes, disruptions to their personal lives, and more. And if they’re unable to get back to work or are distracted, you too will be affected.
During and after a hurricane or tropical storm, be ready to provide physical, social, emotional, and financial aid to employees and their families. Consider providing counseling and support services, along with help to manage homeowners, renters, flood, and personal auto insurance claims and navigate Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) aid programs. And in advance of a storm, establish a toll-free number through which employees can access any help you can offer.
With the next devastating storm potentially around the corner, now’s the time to prepare and apply lessons from recent experiences. While no amount of planning can fully guarantee a good outcome, taking these steps can help position your organization and people to limit damage and more quickly resume normal operations.