Recently one of our insurance carriers sent us information regarding Disaster Planning and the guidelines necessary to adequately prepare for weather events that could have an effect upon your ability to serve your clients during these unforeseen weather related occurrences.
Of course, depending upon the specific industry your business serves, there may very well be some specific eventualities to consider, however, overall here are some of the more general suggestions they made:
• Make a list of the type of weather related risks that could affect your business such as flood, earthquake, snow, hurricane, hail, cyclone, heat wave, ice storm, extremely low temperatures, strong winds, etc. to name just a few.
• Create a plan reflective of what you might face in terms of these events such as power outage, lack of transportation, extensive property damage and lack of sufficient infrastructure. The carrier indicated that the cost of downtime for a small business arising out of a weather related event is approximately $3,000 a day.
• Prepare in advance by making sure to stock up prior to a storm in case you can’t make or receive deliveries; make sure employees have emergency kits in their vehicles and arrange for plowing/shoveling so that your customers can access your business once the storm has passed.
• Train employees how to be extra cautious if walking or driving on ice and snow. Better yet, devise a plan to have employees work from a remote location where they can gain access to information needed to carry on business as usual in a safe environment.
• In the case of hurricane preparedness, there is usually a warning given within 24-36 hours of the impending storm. Be prepared with a specific plan to safeguard any property, including documents, before the storm actually arrives.
• Protect computers and electronic devices from the devastating effects of power surges and outages by having all computers and servers connected to uninterruptible power supplies which will provide you with adequate short term protection; make sure to perform regularly scheduled backups so that all of your valuable data can be retrieved immediately following a catastrophic event.
• Make sure that your business and your employees can navigate through an extended heat wave which could stress local power grids to the max. A short term solution is a backup generator when the power outage doesn’t last more than a day or two. If air conditioning fails, or is weakened by the stress on the system, make sure to have lots of water available to keep everyone adequately hydrated.
• Explore ways to stay in business without power, telephone or Internet service to assist your clients during a critical time. This includes the use of backup power such as generators, cell phones, remote locations, alternative transportation, etc.
• Update your plan annually and communicate any new ideas to your personnel to keep them in the know.
By Karen Skoler, CPCU