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Gain Competitive Advantage Now: Hurricane Preparedness for Businesses

Hurricane damage to a business in Texas

Businesses constantly seek ways to gain competitive advantage, but few leaders rank Charles Darwin among 21st century business influencers. Hurricane preparedness for businesses, however, is survival of the fittest for companies in coastal areas of the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico, plus parts of the Southwest and Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The following guide includes five steps to develop a hurricane preparedness plan that can help businesses reopen after storms.

How Important is a Hurricane Preparedness Plan for Your Business?

Satellite image of Hurricane Isabel

Businesses without hurricane preparedness plans are flirting with extinction, according to data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). When a natural disaster such as a hurricane or tropical storm damages an area:

  • Immediately, 40% of small businesses won’t reopen.
  • One year later, 25% more small businesses will close for good.
  • After three years, 75% of affected businesses without a business continuity plan will fail.

In other words, having a comprehensive hurricane preparedness plan that addresses business continuity is a common element among businesses that survive natural disasters. Data analytics show having a plan is beyond important. It’s the safest bet for responsible businesses.

Does Your Business Need a Hurricane Preparedness Plan Now?

It’s best to be fully prepared before hurricane season. National Hurricane Preparedness Week is May 5-11, 2024.

Eastern Pacific hurricane season runs mid-May through November. Atlantic hurricane season runs June 1 through November, with peak hurricane season Sept. 10, according t

o the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The first thing a business can do to protect itself against hurricanes is determine its risk, both physical and economic.

Businesses don’t have to be in the direct path of a hurricane or right on the coast to experience major damage. Heavy rain, strong winds, flooding, tornadoes and storm surges can reach hundreds of miles inland. Hurricane-force winds — those that are 130-160 mph with 170 mph gusts — can extend 150 miles inland, according to the National Weather Service.

This map from NOAA shows major hurricane paths in the Americas since 1949 in the Pacific Ocean and 1851 in the Atlantic Ocean. Businesses located in the marked zones can hedge against hurricane-related business failure by developing or updating their hurricane preparedness plans now.

Ready.gov, an official website of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, provides a Business Impact Analysis questionnaire that helps businesses predict their costs of hurricane-related business disruptions and recovery efforts. When business leaders see what’s at stake, the urgency of a hurricane preparedness plan goes way up.

What’s in a Business Hurricane Preparedness Plan?

A hurricane preparedness plan lays out how a business will protect its assets — people, property and operations — if a hurricane affects the business. It also supports business continuity planning.

The preparedness plan details what-if scenarios and operational adaptability. How will the business continue to provide goods and services? Maintain cash flow? Protect its reputation? How will the business meet its obligations: legal, regulatory, financial and contractual?

Five sections are critical to a basic hurricane preparedness plan. (Business leaders may add more sections as needed to address concerns in the business impact analysis and to support business continuity planning.)

  1. Disaster supplies kit.
  2. Employee training and testing.
  3. Data and document backups.
  4. Resources.
  5. Customer outreach.

Writing a hurricane preparedness plan for a business

 

Disaster Supplies Kit

Businesses can prepare for a hurricane by gathering items employees might need if they were to shelter at work for three days, according to the National Hurricane Survival Initiative. These items are similar to those someone would gather for a home disaster kit.

  • Flashlight (and extra batteries).
  • Toolbox (gloves, basic tools).
  • Camera with film (to log damage).
  • Whistle.
  • Flares.
  • Backup phone charger (that’s charged).
  • Battery-powered radio.
  • Weather alert radio.
  • Nonperishable foods to sustain each person for three days (ready-to-eat meals, meats, fruits, vegetables, juice, granola bars, etc.).
  • 1 gallon of water per person per 24 hours.
  • First-aid kit.
  • Mylar blankets.
  • Disposable dishes, cutlery.
  • Manual can opener.
  • Toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs, contact lens solution, feminine products, etc.
  • Plastic trash bags.
  • Cleaning supplies.
  • Smoke alarm.
  • Fire extinguisher.
  • Tarp.
  • Duct tape.
  • Walkie-talkies.
  • Items and plans for people with special needs.
  • Evacuation routes for employees and customers.
  • Cash in small bills.
  • Credit card.
  • ATM card.
  • ID.

In addition, businesses can stock disaster supplies crucial to their continued operations. These include:

  • Uninterruptable power supply (portable/standby generators).
  • Access to emergency fuel for transportation and generators.
  • Portable aboveground storage tanks for diesel, gasoline and lubricant oils (e.g., Unity Fuel Solutions BLOC Tanks).

Employee Training and Testing

Training and testing are critical to business preparedness, and they ensure teams know what is expected to protect lives and the business. Training resources and topics might include:

Data and Document Backups

Businesses can prepare for disaster by having IT departments back up data regularly and store it in safe, secure and dependable locations. America’s Small Business Development Center recommends to businesses that use recovery services vendors to store their data near the providers. What’s more, businesses with short recovery windows might consider using electronic vaulting technology, which allows data to be transferred to alternate recovery sites in minutes.

Printed copies of original important documents such as insurance and bank statements may be kept on-site in a waterproof box. Originals are safer off-site in a safe deposit box.

Resources

Preparedness involves creating a comprehensive list of contacts with phone numbers, emails and physical addresses, including:

  • All staff and their emergency contacts.
  • Emergency first responders.
  • Emergency management personnel.
  • Utilities.
  • Building owners.
  • Attorneys.
  • Emergency contractors.
  • Local, state and federal agencies.
  • Local, state and federal elected officials.
  • Equipment manufacturers, distributors and service providers.
  • Banks.
  • Insurance company and agent.
  • Media.

Hurricane damage to a business in Texas

It helps to include other critical resources, too. These might be resources that provide real-time updates and notifications, or they might be organizations that help with disaster preparation and response:

Customer Outreach

Businesses can inform customers that they’re prepared before a storm hits. Mentioning a business continuity plan, access to emergency fuel and having an uninterruptable power supply can build trust and loyalty in the community. Potential ways to communicate with customers, vendors and employees immediately after a hurricane include old school radio and television. The key to outreach, as with the entire hurricane preparedness plan, is to be proactive and adaptable.

You Can Beat Business Extinction

Remember, it’s survival of the fittest out there, and being the fittest demands being prepared. If you don’t want to be the next dodo when the hurricane hits, create or update your hurricane preparedness plan now. Your business demands it.

Need Help? Ask the Experts.

For help in choosing the right fuel storage tank for disaster relief, emergency supplies or everyday operations, it makes sense to ask the experts.

Unity Fuel Solutions is North America’s leader in double walled storage tanks. For advice on the tank and system that’s right for you, call the Unity team at 800-234-1689.

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