As hurricane season begins, it may be easy to get caught up in the forecasts calling for yet another above average season. Yet any hurricane season can be the worst season for a small business owner if a storm impacts your area. It only takes one storm to disrupt your business operations.
Hurricanes batter our buildings with relentless wind and rain jeopardizing the structures that our businesses call home. Prepare your small business before tropical weather threatens by getting started now. From the building itself, to your business operations, to your staff, a holistic approach to business preparedness can reduce the impact of hurricane season on your bottom line.
Where to Start
While where to get started can seem overwhelming, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) developed free tools to help business owners prepare based on our research to understanding buildings and their vulnerabilities to all kinds of weather.
Your first line of defense against weather is the roof on your building. Unfortunately, when wind attacks a building, it is also the roof that often suffers severe damage. If the roof is damaged, the rest of the building becomes more vulnerable, especially to water.
Wind often starts to damage a roof at the edges. It can pull on the metal flashing protecting the edge of the roof and begin a cascade of failures that can impact the integrity of the entire structure. Wind can also tug at roof cover systems and roof-mounted equipment like air conditioners that are critical to business operations.
Given this, start hurricane preparations with a good inspection of your roof, the equipment on it and all the connections keeping your roof system together. You may be able to conduct an inspection, being sure all necessary fall protection is used, but may prefer to call a licensed roof contractor to help.
After an inspection, tackling a few roof-related maintenance projects can help your building fare better this hurricane season. Even small roof repairs and projects can extend the life of your roof. For example, adding extra fasteners, especially in the corner and perimeter zones, can increase a low-slope roof’s resistance to wind.
Good drainage will improve your roof’s performance during wind-driven rain. Remove loose objects like leaves, sticks, any miscellaneous construction debris and even dirt to reduce the chance of water building up during a storm. Gutters are also important to a roof’s drainage. Make they are securely attached to the building and, along with downspouts, are clear of debris and draining properly.
Well-secured metal edge flashing is also key to the performance of a low-slope roof system. When it is loose, wind and rain can get up underneath the roof allowing water entry and the roof cover to peel away.
By protecting the roof, you can stop a cascade of damage before it starts and reduce the damage your building might experience, as well as protecting interior finishes and equipment. When the roof performs well, the contents and operations of your business are best protected from the intense wind and rain of a hurricane.
Have a Plan
A business continuity plan also helps businesses prepare for nontangible assets that may be affected by a hurricane. While it may seem overwhelming for a small business to create, “Open for Business-EZ (OFB-EZ)” is a free toolkit to walk busy owners and operators through creating, testing and maintaining a business continuity plan.
The toolkit helps business leaders determine how to reduce potential disruptions core to business operations by documenting key elements tailored and most relevant to your organization. It brings together the vital information a business owner will need access to immediately in the event of a disruption. After developing the plan, be sure to test it with employees so everyone is familiar with the steps and ready to take action. Planning on a sunny day can smooth decision making and actions across your organization during a real event.
Creating a business continuity plan now prepares your business not only for hurricane season, but for any other disruption—big or small.
Last Minute Prep
In the event a tropical storm or hurricane approaches, you’ll want to take last-minute preparedness steps that can’t be done in advance. While you can’t put up shutters or bring in outdoor items months in advance of a hurricane, knowing now what steps you will need to take can save valuable time during an event.
Keep wind out of the building by protecting doors and windows. Be sure all roll-up doors and garage doors are closed and snug against the wall. While putting up hurricane shutters will be one of the last steps to take, shutters provide critical protection to keep wind, water and flying debris out of the building. Be sure to put up shutters on all windows. Plywood should only be used as a last resort if hurricane shutters are not available.
You’ll also want to take time to secure outdoor equipment, signage, inventory and other loose items likes pallets, signs or furniture. These items can become projectiles in the wind and lead to damage to your building or a neighboring building. By planning to secure these items in advance, they’re more likely to still be there and usable after the storm.
Small businesses are vital to our national economy and local communities. Planning ahead can help small business owners protect their investment and continue to serve their community even after a storm. For more ways for businesses to be hurricane ready, including IBHS’s EZ-Prep guide to create an emergency preparedness and response plan, visit disastersafety.org/hurricane.
About the Author:
Chuck Miccolis is the managing director of commercial lines at the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS).