The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, with the third-highest number of storms on record, to have caused about $70 billion in damages in the United States. Damages from Hurricane Ida alone, which made landfall in Louisiana as a Category 4 storm in August, are estimated to exceed the costs from all the hurricanes in the 2020 season combined.
Hurricanes are causing more damage and rapidly becoming more costly every year. Considering the wind and water damage that hurricanes can cause, taking some basic steps to prepare in advance can help companies minimize the property damage and business disruptions these events can create.
Take protective measures across your commercial property
There are many proactive steps you can take before hurricane season to reduce the potential for property damage. Have storm shutters or plywood on hand to protect doors and windows. Remove tree branches, loose debris, or other items around your facility that could cause damage. Decide how you can secure or store outdoor items that could become a hazard in high winds. Consult with professional engineers to reinforce fencing, signage, or other structures against damage from wind and rising water.
You should also consider how to protect assets inside your facility in case the structure is damaged. For example, plan where you can move high-value electronics, uninterruptable power supply (UPS) units, and other sensitive equipment so they are as far away from outside walls and as high off the ground as possible. Set up processes and designate individuals to be responsible for powering down non-critical equipment, such as monitors or other non-essential devices, prior to your facility being cleared in advance of a storm. You may want to consider working with a disaster recovery company to help make sure there are no missing elements in your storm preparation plans.
Back up critical information and documents
Planning for recovery in advance makes it easier to deal with the aftermath of a hurricane or other weather event. Designate your critical contacts, and set up a system to communicate with your employees, partners, clients, and other stakeholders during and after a disaster. Have a process to transfer crucial business data to a secure, off-site location, either digitally or physically.
If you choose to send physical files off site, remember that air and freight transportation may be cut off in advance of the storm as well as after, so carefully consider the timing of their movement. For documents that cannot be moved, have supplies on hand that will allow you to store or seal them to protect against water damage. For digital files, make sure you have a regular backup schedule with redundant copies securely stored in a location that’s unlikely to be affected by the same weather events.
Conduct a risk assessment
A risk assessment is a process of identifying potential hazards to your company, such as a hurricane, and to analyze the effects of such a hazard on your business if it were to occur. Different types of hazards can have different effects, and the magnitude of the impact on your business can vary depending on the details of a particular hazard event, such as the speed and strength of a hurricane that makes landfall near your location.
Along with identifying hazards, a risk assessment should also include an evaluation of the business’s vulnerable assets. “Assets” are more than physical property; your people, information technology, supply chain, operational continuity, and even your company’s reputation should all be considered in your assessment process. As you list your assets, consider any vulnerabilities that would make each one potentially more susceptible to damage for each hazard type. For assets that you have deemed highly susceptible to damage, you can invest in protective measures to reduce the risk of damage.
Ready.gov offers a Risk Assessment Table template to get you started, or you can work with an expert in disaster preparation and recovery for a thorough assessment and recommendations to lower your risk profile.
Develop a company hurricane procedure
Advance preparation is crucial for minimizing business disruptions before, during, and after a hurricane strikes. Developing, communicating, and testing your company’s procedures before hurricane season begins will put you in a better position than if you wait until a storm is imminent.
Using what you learned in your risk assessment, your hurricane procedures should include preparation and mitigation steps to help reduce risks. If you don’t already have one, develop an emergency communication plan to keep employees, partners, clients, and others informed of your company’s status while dealing with the storm’s effects. Establish safety procedures that involve both clearing personnel out of your facility and bringing them back once it’s safe to do so.
Once you’ve developed your hurricane procedure, test it thoroughly to identify any gaps or bottlenecks in the process. Communicate with all employees to make sure they know the procedure and what your expectations are for them should you have to deal with hurricane or tropical storm conditions. Consider implementing a regular training program to help ensure your employees are well-prepared to efficiently employ your hurricane procedures when necessary.
Generate a recovery plan
Having a plan for what needs to be done once a hurricane has passed will help you recover faster. Review your insurance policies against your risk assessment to make sure your coverage is adequate, and include the relevant contact information in your hurricane procedure. If you haven’t already engaged a disaster recovery firm, either do so now or decide on who you will contact for your recovery after the storm.
Establish protocols for assessing your site after the storm that are focused on personnel safety. High water, broken glass, unstable debris, downed electrical wires, and leaking gasses or fuels are just some of the potential hazards that may be left in the wake of a storm event. Protecting your own personnel from such dangers is one of the main reasons to work with a disaster recovery company after a hurricane, though there are certainly many others. Professional recovery firms also help you recover more effectively through comprehensive damage assessment, documentation of damage for your insurance claims, and carrying out restoration services.
Be prepared to update your recovery plan regularly to incorporate any changes in your business as they happen.
Partner with an experienced disaster response company for a head start on your hurricane prep
Hurricanes and tropical storms are a persistent threat to many businesses, but being prepared makes a significant difference in how quickly you can recover. Cotton GDS not only has the expertise to help with storm and flood cleanup, we can review your existing hurricane plans to identify areas of improvement or help you develop a new response and recovery plan if you don’t already have one. Signing a master services agreement (MSA) can speed up the recovery process with the disaster recovery company you trust.
Contact Cotton for all your business’s hurricane preparation and recovery needs.
Call 877-900-0493 or contact our customer service team.