June 6, 2022 Posted by Pocketstop in Crisis Communications Social Share
Your hurricane preparedness plan should not wait until the the storm is approaching. The National Weather Service will officially announce a hurricane happening in your area, but that only goes so far. You’ll need to have a plan already in place in order to protect your business and, even more importantly, your staff.
First, know the difference between a hurricane watch vs. a hurricane warning
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA):
- A hurricane watch is issued when a tropical cyclone containing winds of at least 74 MPH poses a possible threat, generally within 48 hours. A watch does not mean hurricane conditions will occur, only that these conditions are possible. Hurricane force winds may also be accompanied by storm surge, coastal flooding, and/or river flooding.
- A hurricane warning is issued when hurricane-force winds are expected within 24 hours. A hurricane warning can remain in effect when dangerously high water or a combination of dangerously high water and exceptionally high waves continue, even though winds may be less than hurricane force.
Here are some best-practice strategies for a hurricane preparedness plan for businesses:
First, ask yourself: how much can my property stand up to a hurricane? Here’s how to find out:
- Have your property professionally inspected with potential storm damage in mind. Think about your windows, doors and roof.
- Repair or replace any issues that may be found, well in advance of hurricane season.
- Consider storm protection such as storm doors and reinforced windows.
- Introduce emergency power to your property, such as generators (and test them regularly), lanterns and candles.
Find out if you are in a flood zone. If so, you may be able to use your hurricane preparedness plan to save your property from flood-related damage.
- Can you create flood walls or levees?
- Can you store sandbags? They are often effective at keeping floodwater away.
- Have a professional look at any of area of your property that is below ground level and ask about hurricane-related solutions.
- Keep any important information, electronics or files away from the basement and low-lying areas.
- Make sure your drainage lines contain shut-off valves that are easy to use in an emergency.
- Store pallets and milk crates to keep important furniture and materials off the floor.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), you should print important documents (e.g., emergency phone numbers, insurance information) before a hurricane strikes. Power outages during and after a hurricane can prevent you from accessing information online when you most need it. Consider storing important contact information in a system separate from your network (like a mass notification platform) in case your system goes down.
Collect, organize and regularly inspect your supplies:
- Plastic sheets
- Essential tools (hammers, nails, screwdrivers, pliers)
- A few days worth of bottled water
- Battery-operated radios
Note: according to ready.gov, even after a hurricane passes, you may need a few days worth of supplies (including food and water). Store as many supplies as you can in airtight plastic packaging, and allow for easy carrying in a duffel bag or plastic bins.
Invest in a high-quality mass notification system that will help communicate your hurricane preparedness plan.
One of the most vital elements of your plan is to have a crisis communication system in place — way ahead of time. With this system, you’ll be able to reach the right people in any emergency, in real time, and allow them to communicate back with you. RedFlag offers such a system, which allows you to write your hurricane-related alerts just once (even in advance of the event) and send it via multiple channels (like text, voice calls, emails, and Microsoft Teams alerts). These alerts can be sent to as many or as few people as the situation requires — big teams or even just one person. Invest in this system and your communication work will be in place and ready to be used in the event of a hurricane threat.
Additional benefits of a crisis communication system:
- Two-way communication: know that not all systems offer this feature. Use your two-way capabilities to take a headcount or real-time assessment of your staff at the height of the emergency. If an employee is in trouble, they can communicate with you and let you know the situation. Your staff can also use this system to ask questions and give updates.
- Data and insight gathering: this feature will help you figure out logistics during the emergency, and afterwards how the plan was executed and how to improve. You can generate relevant insight reports from open rates, acknowledgement and polling results.
- The ability to simplify your communication. An undertaking like communicating to the right people at the right time during a hurricane event could get overwhelming and even confusing. A mass communication system could make things easier by letting you accomplish fast updates and alerts with the push of one button. Send your messages directly from Outlook or iPhone or Android apps, all from one user-friendly dashboard.
Of course, no two emergency events are ever really alike, so your mass notification system should be flexible, allowing you to customize and fine-tune your communication as needed. This could become a tried-and-true way toward business continuity when faced with an emergency event.
Create a recovery team:
Choose the people you trust to help keep your hurricane preparedness plan on track. Duties could include maintenance, quality-control, cleanup, supply checks, evacuation management and damage assessment. Here’s what your team can watch for:
- Safety hazards, such as leaking gas, downed power lines and exposed electrical wires
- Property damage
- What may need immediate repairs
- Evacuation routes for employees
- Photographs and video of storm damage for insurance purposes
As the storm approaches, put your hurricane preparedness plan into action:
- Keep a close watch on weather reports, both locally and with the NOAA Weather Radio.
- Remove any articles that are easily swept up in high winds, like patio chairs, benches, grills, signs and flower pots.
- Keep your contact list clean and up to date so that you can stay in touch with your people.
- Shutter or board up windows.
- Secure all doors.
- Make sure all drains and pipes are clear of blockage.
- Check emergency generators and fuel tanks.
- Test your fire and smoke alarms.
- Make sure your computers and files are in a safe, dry place — or move them offsite.
- Shut off gas lines.
- Begin relevant communication to employees, stakeholders and vendors according to your plan.
- Evacuate employees.
Note: according to safeelectricity.org, storm damage can cause dangers that can lurk long after the storm passes. When you see power lines on the ground following a storm, stay away, warn others to stay away and contact the electric utility. Lines do not have to be arcing or sparking to be live. Any utility wire, including telephone or cable lines sagging or down, could be in contact with an energized power line. This makes them also very dangerous, so stay away from all of them.
After the storm:
Immediately check in with your staff, like using a polling feature within your mass notification system, and access your property and equipment. In addition:
- Notify the fire department of your status.
- Check for additional leaks and damage.
- Have an electrician check all systems.
- Check your water supply, especially for contamination.
Find out more about RedFlag Mass Notification here.
Find out more about hurricane preparedness at ready.gov.
The Red Cross offers good information on hurricane preparedness. Click here.
The National Hurricane Survival Initiative offers a business checklist.
Protect your family and home as well as your business and staff. Ready.gov offers a home-based kit checklist to be utilized in hurricane events. Click here.