Well, we made it through the second consecutive hurricane season without severe weather damaging a major US populated area. Superstorm Sandy is becoming a distant memory for some. This is both good and bad; the bad being the fear of people and businesses being complacent to the horrific effects to a building or a business of a severe storm. Severe weather impacts are a threat to your business and your assets year round. This is the time to implement common-sense strategies to safeguard your property from the physical and financial effects of severe weather.
Here are 8 easy-to-implement ideas that will have direct financial and risk benefits for you.
- Create a severe storm culture. Don’t think your building or business is immune from the devastating effects of a severe storm. Even if it is not a headline-making hurricane, blizzard, or earthquake, severe weather literally impacts property in all 50 states. Don’t assume a severe storm will not come; be prepared for the worst case. Don’t get paralyzed by such concerns; but also make sure your management and rank and file employees understand this, too, and you are looking out for your business and for them.
- Damage is beyond the physical. A large number of businesses fail to re-open after a severe weather event due, of course, to sustained physical damage to the building or its inventory. But many also go out of business because of a profound loss of computer data (sales lists, business data, codes, financial, HR, etc.). It is important to not just secure physical property, but your business systems, too.
- Therefore, identify vulnerable business entities. What items are critical to your business that may be compromised by severe weather? First, should be your people, followed by buildings, computer systems, heavy equipment, inventory, etc.
- Anticipate worst-case scenarios. Actually record in writing potential worst case scenarios based on your location, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, blizzards, earthquakes, thunderstorms, etc. Record the details of all severe incidents (date, degree, damage to area) over the last 40 years or more.
- Now go back and identify vulnerable business entities. For each potential severe weather type, which of your critical systems are most vulnerable and how bad may losses be? Don’t only look at the costs of replacing equipment or systems, but also the effects of lost business and the cost to get back in operation again. Look at people, property, inventory, computer systems, equipment, etc. Estimate potential losses and the time and cost for full business recovery for each scenario.
- What reasonable protections can you install? Of course, budgets are limiting. You can’t do everything. And besides, there is no such thing as zero risk against the fury of Mother Nature. But what effective, affordable measures can you install – both physical and cultural – to reduce the risk of loss? From physical safeguards of your buildings (i.e., construct escape paths, send water away from buildings and paths, raise critical equipment above basement/ground floor) to conducting drills. Once you decide on strategies, make sure that they are designed, installed, and maintained to work well. You don’t want to find out after an event occurs that it did not work. Again, given the potential losses, this is a good investment of resources.
- Back up your data. As discussed earlier, your data very much defines your business. Make sure you have proper back up to all of your data in a secure location, such as the ”cloud” or secure location safe from floods, fire, etc. Make sure that the backup data is up to date and of the same quality as your main data (you don’t want to go to your backup data, having lost your main data, and find out it is several years old or in an outdated format!). And test that your backup data is accessible.
- Create living emergency response/business continuity plans. Put all of this in writing: plans to determine how you will respond to the different types of severe weather that may affect your facilities to protect your people, assets, and data plus procedures to bring your business back up again as soon as possible after a disaster. Make sure these documents are reviewed and updated regularly and the right leaders are aware of what needs to be done and can execute them.
Marc Karell is the owner of Climate Change & Environmental Services. CCES has the experts to help your business and buildings develop a disaster preparedness program to help minimize impacts of severe weather and to enable you to bounce back. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.