Preparing for Winter Weather: Tips for Small Businesses

Topics: Small Business

Summary: In many parts of the country, winter weather has already arrived. Is your business ready for winter storms? Learn winter safety tips for preparing your business’s property for cold weather and preventing damage to your building from storms and freezing temperatures.

Winter Weather Preparedness at Work

The winter season brings with it the potential for adverse weather conditions: extreme cold, high winds, snow and sleet, and icy roads and sidewalks. As a small business owner, you want to ensure your organization can stay open and thrive no matter what the season brings. This means adequate preparation for winter storms to keep your business, property and employees safe. 

How Do I Prepare My Small Business for Winter?

winter weather preparation for small businesses

Winter preparedness means doing as much as possible to avoid accidents and damage to the premises. Although the goal is always to prevent disasters, sometimes this may not be possible. Be ready to respond quickly to winter weather emergencies. It might be necessary to evacuate if structural damage from snow and ice makes a building unsafe. Also, keep a stock of emergency supplies, including food, water, flashlights, a radio, extra batteries, a whistle and a first aid kit.

Here are some additional tips to help prepare your small business for winter storms:

Be Aware of Winter Storm Warnings

Make sure to keep an eye on your local weather forecast. If you haven’t done so already, consider downloading a reputable smartphone application that can come in handy to alert you of winter weather activity in your area. Getting out in front of a severe winter storm as much as possible will help give you more time to prepare your property, business operations and your employees as the adverse weather approaches.

Prepare Your Business with a Winter Safety Plan

To ensure a successful recovery from incidents due to winter storms, it’s essential that small businesses create a plan that will help protect the business’s assets and employees and allow them to remain competitive after a disruption. One aspect of a business continuity plan is the ability to easily transition to working remotely during incidents.

A business continuity plan outlines the procedures an organization should adhere to in the event of a major disruption or disaster. All communication devices, including laptops and other essential electronics, should be fully charged before taking them with you. Create multiple back-ups or copies of electronic files, and store records off-premises as much as possible.

Contact any vendors, third-party suppliers, etc. that you work with regularly to discuss a plan for continuing operations during the storm. For example, how will you receive your supplies if your small business relies upon another party to deliver inventory to your location?

Protect Your Small Business's Property from Winter Storms

Prepare the outside of the property

Start outside by relocating any materials or equipment that could be damaged by extreme cold and snow to a secure area. Move any vehicles your business needs to a safe location, such as a covered garage, to help prevent any possible damage or being stuck due to snow accumulation. Avoid concentrating all vehicles in any one building unless the building has automatic fire protection.

Check the roof

Protect your business by learning how to prevent the damage caused by a heavy snow load on your roof. Check for any damaged supports and loose or missing roofing materials, as these areas are vulnerable to snow loads, high winds and water penetration. When snow accumulates on a building’s roof, it could lead to risks from leaking to the entire roof collapsing. Snow load on the ground may not be the same as the amount of snow on the roof, so it is critical for businessowners to know the snow load capability of their roof. The type of snow accumulating also can have an impact on your business’s roof. For example, one cubic foot of fresh, dry snow is about three pounds, while one cubic foot of wet, heavy snow is 21 pounds.

If there are any issues after inspecting the roof, make sure to have them fixed by a professional as soon as possible. Arrange for a qualified and insured contractor to remove drifts, excessive snow, or water-laden snow or ice from roofs. Also, check for clear and open roof drains and for any gaps around flashing or locations where objects are secured to the roof, such as antennas. These issues should be addressed immediately.

Prevent frozen pipes

Frozen pipes can cause extreme damage to a building during the winter months. To prevent frozen pipes, insulate areas that aren’t heated, such as attics and crawlspaces and add foam insulation or heat tape to vulnerable pipes. Buildings should be kept at a temperature of 55˚F or higher at all time. Outdoor hoses and irrigation systems should be drained and a smart leak detector or automatic excess flow switch should be installed so you can monitor pipes for any problems. Also, to help prevent freezing, leave the water slightly running to keep water flowing through the pipes.

Parking lot and sidewalk snow removal

Snow and ice should be cleared regularly from parking lots, entryways and sidewalks, and proper measures (like salting) should be taken to help prevent slips and falls. Placing non-slip mats in front of entrances can help further prevent slipping as employees and customers enter and exit your business property.

Install a generator

Installing a generator is a great way to prepare for the possibility of power loss and to help reduce business disruption. It enables your small business to continue operating some or all of your electronic equipment and lights. It can help avoid or minimize commercial property damage from freezing temperatures. 

Assemble your team

Keeping a building safe from winter weather requires expertise. Have a team of professional contacts you can call when you need help. The team should include a building inspector, plumber, electrician, snow removal team and a professional structural engineer to assess any damages caused by snow load.

Additionally, our infographic below has a few tips to get your small business prepared for a winter storm:

Protect Your Workforce

Last, but not least - the most significant winter weather preparedness tip is to protect your most important asset: your workforce. If possible, close your office at a time that allows your employees ample opportunity to travel home safely. Should a storm hit during non-business hours, making winter driving difficult and dangerous, offer the capability for your employees to work from home (if your type of business supports this) by allowing secure access to your business network.

AmTrust Offers Commercial Property Protection

AmTrust protects your business and its property with our commercial property insurance. We can design customized coverage to fit your individual needs and keep your building, its contents and your income safe. Additionally, AmTrust’s Loss Control team offers a variety of small business winter preparedness resources. Contact us today to learn more.

This material is for informational purposes only, summarizes coverages and services that may be available in a policy, 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.

Time Zones