Emergency Planning for Businesses

Topics: Loss Control

Summary: Natural disasters can come in the form of snowstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and more. Does your business have an emergency preparedness plan when a disaster hits your business? Find out what you should do to be prepared in this article.

Emergency  Preparedness for Businesses

No matter what time of year it is, weather, natural disasters, fire and other emergencies can impact a business. FEMA research notes that approximately 40% to 60% of small businesses never reopen after a disaster. It’s essential to look at the most common weather threats in your area and plan ahead. Not having an emergency plan could lead to a confused response with the possibility of damage to employees or property.

Know Your Natural Disaster Seasons and Potential Exposures

A disaster can strike at any time. However, certain disasters are most likely to occur during specific seasons. Review the common disasters by season and U.S. regions below and make note of the exposures your business may face.

Winter Disasters

  • Snow and ice events: The coldest winter temperatures may occur during different months, depending on where you live. Winter weather tends to be most severe during December, January or February.
  • Pandemics: While pandemics can occur throughout the year, some illnesses are more likely to occur during fall and winter. Flu season, for example, usually peaks between December and February.

Spring and Summer Tornado Activity By Region

  • The majority of tornado activity on the Gulf Coast peaks in early spring.
  • Tornado activity in the Southern Plains (Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas) peaks during May and early June.
  • Tornado activity in the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest (North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota) peaks in June and July.

Summer and Fall National Disasters

  • Hurricanes: The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, while the Eastern Pacific hurricane season runs from May 15 to November 30.
  • Wildfire: Wildfire season may start to peak during the summer. However, fires can occur during other times of the year and the peak wildfire season may vary in your region.
  • Extreme Heat: Summer temperatures will peak depending on the climate in your area, but it could be as early as June and as late as September.

Take Steps to Mitigate Risk Before, During and After Your Region’s Disaster Season

Businesses should have a disaster recovery plan in place to be prepared when a natural disaster strikes your area. Below, you’ll find a brief summary of the steps for each phase.

Before a Storm

Before a storm hits your area, create your emergency plans, including a disaster response plan, a crisis communication plan and a business continuity plan. Also, make sure you do the following to prepare:
  • Inspect the building and make building repairs and improvements as needed.
  • Clear the roof and gutters of debris.
  • Remove trees and branches that could become a hazard during a fire or storm.
  • Stock your emergency kit. Some emergencies occur without warning, and employees may be stuck inside the building. Ensure they have adequate emergency supplies to shelter-in-place, including a first aid kit, food, water, flashlights, a radio and extra batteries.

During the Storm

During the storm, listen and watch for emergency warnings and be ready to:
  • Deploy your crisis communication plan
  • Always prioritize safety
  • Keep in mind that employees may need time to make arrangements for personal evacuation in order to protect their homes and families

After the Storm

After the storm has safely passed, continue with crisis communication as needed.
  • Do not return to an area impacted by the disaster until authorities say it is safe to do so
  • Have the building inspected for safety issues before allowing employees to return as there may be flooding, electrical dangers and structural damage that could create a dangerous environment
  • Stay in communication with employees, so they know when they are expected to return to work
  • Inspect the building for additional damages and make repairs as needed
  • Consider how the emergency plans could be improved ahead of next year’s disaster season

Tailor Your Emergency Response Procedures According to the Timing and Type of Threat

How you respond to the natural disaster in your area will depend on the timing and the specific type of threat to your business. Some storms, such as a hurricane or winter ice or snowstorm, take longer to get to your region, giving you more time to prepare. However, other disasters, such as wildfires or tornadoes, bring different risk potentials to your business.

Emergency Alert System

Keep an eye on the weather, and make sure you’re receiving local storm designation alerts.
  • A watch means a severe weather event is possible
  • A warning means a severe warning event has been reported or that hurricane conditions are expected
  • Evacuation orders may be issued as voluntary or mandatory

When a Disaster Is Imminent

Quick action is needed to protect your business and your employees as disaster approaches.
  • Communicate with your employees, so they know what is happening
  • Follow your crisis communication plan
  • Take steps to secure the building depending on the type of disaster that is expected
  • Make sure key equipment and documents are protected or, if time allowed, moved off-site for additional protection
  • Get ready to implement your business continuity plan
  • Consider what will be needed to continue essential business processes off-site if needed
  • Watch for updates and evacuation orders

Preparing for an Imminent Hurricane

A hurricane can bring its disaster preparedness plan. If a hurricane or other high-wind event is imminent, take action:
  • Bring in items that may become a hazard, such as outdoor furniture or signage
  • Secure items that cannot be brought in, such as rooftop mounted equipment
  • Close storm shutters or board up windows • Use sandbags in areas that are likely to flood
  • Find a safe place for valuable documents or equipment, either off-site or secured on-site
  • Turn off utilities
  • Follow guidance from local authorities

Disaster Procedures Ahead of a Wildfire

Protect your business from a wildfire by doing the following:
  • Bring flammable items, such as outdoor furniture, inside to the center of the building
  • Close all windows and doors
  • Connect outdoor hoses and fill containers with water
  • Turn off natural gas from the source
  • Move propane and other flammable fuels away from the building
  • Follow guidance from local authorities

AmTrust Provides Loss Control Resources and More

It is crucial to review your property and business interruption insurance with your insurance partner every year to ensure coverage sufficiency. AmTrust's Loss Control Department provides a range of commercial property safety resources and risk management solutions designed to keep your business and your employees safe and prepared during a disaster. For more information about our loss control services, please contact us today.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information.

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