August and September are typically the busiest months of the Atlantic Hurricane Season. With the season at its peak, it is a good time to remember that businesses should be constantly planning for natural disasters of all kinds. Businesses should be considering potential damage from severe storms, earthquakes, flooding, or tornadoes. Each of these has the ability to not only disrupt businesses, but even put those who are not prepared out of business permanently.
Fortunately, the National Hurricane Center does an amazing job of forecasting and tracking the paths of tropical storms and hurricanes, allowing citizens and businesses to take shelter when threatening conditions form. However, without advanced planning and preparation, your business and employees can be severely impacted or harmed by the sheer force of Mother Nature.
Basic Preparation and Advanced Planning for Your Business
There are numerous common-sense considerations for preparedness that are often overlooked:
- Human lives are, of course, the primary concern in the event of extreme conditions. Have warning systems available. Be able to alert your employees quickly and efficiently of impending danger, including voice alerts, sirens, and safe zones in your facility.
- Know the capability of your structure to withstand severe conditions. If you are unsure, engage a structural engineering firm to evaluate your building and foundation. Knowing the building may not be capable of withstanding such environments will mean you need an effective evacuation plan.
- Have a written plan that includes building maintenance, such as securing equipment that may be exposed to the environment, boarding of windows, and movement of essential equipment or business records to safe locations. This plan should be reviewed at least annually with all employees to identify responsible parties and the actions to be taken.
- Make sure emergency equipment is available, including flashlights, battery-powered radios, first aid supplies, and even water or non-perishable food items.
- Protect your data and business records. Have a documented and communicated plan for backing up critical data and documents, whether they are stored only on digital devices such as computers or servers, or physical paperwork. Files and documents that have legal requirements for retention should be copied for off-site storage in secure areas. These may include financial records of importance for tax purposes or investors, contracts, or medical records subject to HIPAA regulations. Data backups from computer systems should be copied regularly for storage in secure off-site facilities.
Special Precautions for Hazardous Materials
Companies that utilize and/or store hazardous materials or toxic chemicals have specific responsibilities to protect humans, the environment, and wildlife from exposure or harm. This, of course, includes eliminating potential dangers to emergency response teams.
Identify hazardous materials clearly and be aware of their existence in the workplace. These materials can include:
- Solvents used in industrial settings such as cleaners, degreasers, and lubricants
- Chlorine or other chemicals used for swimming pools
- Waste containers that could potentially contain toxic waste
- Compressed gas tanks or containers
Make sure such items are stored safely, and dispose of them properly when they are no longer needed.
Remove any hazardous materials that may generate unsafe conditions from low-lying areas, when adverse conditions are expected.
Your best defense when Mother Nature threatens is to be prepared. Have a plan, review it regularly, and be certain that it is communicated to all employees. This ensures the safety of employees, protection of the environment, and business continuity.
Contact us if we can be of assistance.