Small businesses are very vulnerable to the weather. Storms like tornadoes, hurricanes, straight-line wind, etc. can knock out the workplace for a home-based businesses. In turn, this could have serious financial ramifications. Here are some practical steps to prepare:
- Locate a safe room. Plan to find the lowest place in the house, without windows. Usually this is the basement or an interior closet or storeroom. Meet as a family and agree to the plan to meet there in case of emergency. Be sure that each family member has a plan for shelter away from home in case of a storm that doesn’t allow everyone to get home. Be sure it is operational for your small business.
- Supplies. Be sure to keep supplies on hand in or near the safe room. These should include: water, a water purification kit, non-perishable snacks/food, blankets and pillows, clothing, first aid, medical equipment for special-needs family members, pre-moistened towelettes, hand sanitizer, zip-lock plastic bags, disposable eating ware, duct tape, necessary toiletries, flashlights with fresh batteries, radio, cell phone with charged batteries, entertainment items such as books, or games, pet care items. If you have a baby or toddler you will need appropriate supplies: diapers, baby food, formula, toys, etc. You may want a battery-operated laptop with a cellular modem to be able to connect with email and Internet.
- Evacuation plan. Have a plan if you will be required to evacuate due to incoming weather. Hurricanes and floods approach more slowly giving people time to escape. Don’t risk it–get out if an evacuation order comes. Know the escape routes, plan for pets, know where you will go, have the car full of gas, etc. Much of the loss of life suffered in past storms could have been prevented had people heeded evacuation warnings. Be sure you have identification, medication, medical paperwork, insurance information, food, eyeglasses, money, credit cards, etc. with you if you evacuate.
- Plan for pets. Make sure you know where the family pets are at all times and who is responsible for their care before and during the storm. Develop a plan for their care in case of evacuation.
- Generator. A stand-by generator rapidly is becoming a necessary home appliance. Maintenance of electricity supply is becoming a necessity vs. a luxury and can qualify for insurance discounts. Heating/cooling, cooking, communication, medical gear, etc. all are dependent on electric supply. A permanent stand-by generator fueled by natural or propane gas with automatic transfer switch is best. Make sure the propane company tops off the tank before the storm. Portable gas or diesel-powered generators are ok for short-term uses but less reliable and more dangerous. Be sure to follow proper venting procedures to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Check insurance. Make sure your home, auto, and small business insurance is up to date and that you’re covered in case of storm damage. Especially important is wind and water damage for homes (flood insurance in some areas), and water damage to vehicles.
- Trim the trees. Broken tree limbs hitting power lines or houses can cause a lot of damage. Many times trees themselves are toppled onto cars and houses. The best defense is pruning. Taking the weight off the top of trees allows the roots to withstand higher winds, survive the storms, and prevent the damage.
- Install the shutters. New building codes in hurricane-prone areas require shutters or ballistic glass to be installed in homes. But increasingly homeowners around the country are installing shutters that can be deployed electronically or manually in case of storms. You also can use pre-cut plywood to cover windows.
- Collect all potential projectiles. Clear the yard and patio of everything not attached: lawn furniture, bird feeders, wind chimes, patio equipment, toys, etc. so they don’t become airborne projectiles that can do damage in a storm.
- Secure valuables. Move valuables to a safe deposit box to prevent loss. Videotape the contents of your home, garage, and landscaping, and store the video in the box. A good practice is to store irreplaceable photos and negatives off site in a safe deposit box. Back up your computer systems to an off-site location for business continuity.
Preparedness and planning are the keys to minimizing damage and preventing injuries or loss of life in storms. But it’s also key to small business planning. Just because your area hasn’t been hit recently doesn’t mean it won’t be hit. You can’t change or prevent the weather, only the potential outcome. Often the worst disasters occur in areas where people have let down their guard. So get ahead of the season, and be prepared.
— Steve Odland