On the upside, April showers bring May flowers. On the downside, they can also bring instances of severe weather, like floods and high winds, and their side effects, like power outages. To get to the May flowers, business owners have to combat and prepare for the April showers first.
The first part of severe spring weather preparation is knowing the forecast for what lies ahead. The second part is developing appropriate plans, procedures and checklists to help your business get ahead of the storm, wait it out and quickly get back up and running to minimize downtime if weather does bring damages.
Today we’ll look at three of the most common severe spring weather storms and their side effects and provide short checklists with our best tips for getting to the May flowers in one piece.
There are a lot of misperceptions about flooding, including only businesses with locations need to be concerned about it. But floods can occur just about anywhere in the country. Causes include flash flooding from heavy rains, storm surges from hurricanes, spring snowmelt and ice dams, mudslides and urban development.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association states that commercial property damages from severe weather total over $3.5 billion each year. Over the past five years, flooding-related business claims have averaged about $89,000 each.
How to Prepare for a Flood
One of the first steps in preparing for a flood is making sure your commercial property is covered by flood insurance. Flood insurance is generally not a part of a standard commercial policy and must be secured separately. Other steps you can take include:
- Acquiring a weather radio with a battery backup
- Become familiar with flood-related terminology like the difference between watches and warnings
- Keep an inventory and other important papers in a safe place
- Know how to shut off gas, electric and water to your facility
- Have check valves installed in sewer pipes to prevent backups
- Imagine your facility with inches of water in it, and what you could do to get valuable assets off of the floor.
What to Do During a Flood
Once flooding is eminent, time is limited. Any steps you take should be made with safety in mind. If you are advised to evacuate, do so. Other steps include:
- Monitor the weather radio and news sources to stay updated on conditions
- Move items to a higher floor if possible
- Do not drive through flooded areas
- Shut off utilities when advised by local authorities
What to Do Following a Flood
Even when waters have receded, danger can still be lurking following a flood. Be careful to continue to avoid driving in flooded areas and take the following steps:
- Watch for downed wires and debris in the roadways
- Monitor local news sources
- Inspect for damage including foundations
- Pump out or otherwise remove water from areas that were flooded
- Document damage through notes, photos and video
- Contact your insurance provider
- Contact a company that specializes in flood remediation to promptly limit damage from moisture including mold and mildew
Power outages at home can sometimes be inconvenient or uncomfortable. When a power outage occurs at a place of business, it can have both short-term and long-term damage. Power outages can lower productivity or force a business to close. Power surges when power is restored can cause damage to expensive equipment. Commercial enterprises that deal in perishable products can sustain extensive losses during an extended power outage.
At the very least, lost power equals lost revenue. Power outages are said to cause an astounding $27 billion in annual losses to commercial enterprises.
How to Prepare for a Power Outage
While power outages are generally unpredictable, there are severe weather circumstances that improve their odds. Thunderstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, ice storms, floods and other weather-related events often bring along power outages. Here’s what you can do to be ready.
- Consult with your business insurance agent about what losses would be covered in a potential outage
- Consider battery back-up systems for critical lighting, computers and other electrical equipment
- Maintain updated records of assets and inventory
- Invest in a gas or propane power generator to serve as a back-up, especially if your business includes use of or the manufacture of perishable products
- Have flashlights and other battery operated lighting available
- Have battery operated radios and weather radios available
- Have additional batteries available
- If you have a propane grill, maintain a full, spare tank of fuel
What to do During a Power Outage
When a power outage occurs, it may not be apparent whether it will be a short or long-term event. It is always better to be prepared for one that may last hours or even days. Here is what you should do when a power outage occurs.
- Turn off lights and appliances to limit drain on the power when it is restored
- Unplug computers to limit damage from power surges
- Avoid using open flames for lighting
- Contact your power company to notify them in case they are not aware of the issue
- Listen to the radio or weather radio for updates on any severe weather or other instructions from local authorities
- Keep foods colder longer by minimizing opening freezer and refrigerator doors
What to Do Following a Power Outage
There may be some doubt how long power may stay on following an outage. Steps you take may depend on how confident you are that power will remain restored and how long power was off. Steps to be taken include:
- Restock batteries for lights and radios
- Note length of the power outage and any losses to income or inventory
- Check security systems to make sure they are operating properly
- Check perishables for losses
- Contact your insurance company to report any losses
- Lengthy power losses to HVAC systems can create mold in humid and hot weather conditions. These issues may have to be addressed.
Tornadoes and High Winds
Some high wind events are more predictable than others. Hurricanes, for example, may provide days of advance warning while a tornado just minutes. In either case, preparation is key to best protect your business.
Of an expected $54 billion in damages from high winds expected in the U.S. annually about $9 will occur to businesses. Here’s how you can minimize tornado damage to your commercial enterprise.
What to Do Before a Tornado
Tornadoes frequently offer little warning. This makes preparing for the eventuality of a storm critical. Here are some steps you can take:
- Check to make sure your business insurance has sufficient coverage for high wind damage
- Limit the amount of unsecured material you have out of doors
- Make sure any attachments to your business like signage can withstand high winds
- Keep your roof maintained
- Keep any trees near your structure trimmed
- Have a weather radio monitoring conditions in storm season
- Familiarize yourself with tornado-related terms and names of surrounding counties
- Designate a safe, secure interior space for people to go in the event of a tornado
- Maintain a emergency kit
- Conduct tornado drills
What to Do During a Tornado
A tornado may not last long but the experience can be intense. Keep in mind your safety is always of primary concern. Other steps to take during the storm should include:
- Moving to a secure, predetermined location in your facility
- Avoid large windows
- Listen to your weather radio
- Seek refuge under sturdy furniture
- Stay in the location until you are confident the storm has passed
What to Do Following a Tornado
- Only travel if absolutely necessary
- Document tornado damage with photos and video
- Watch for downed electrical wires
- Contact your insurance provider to file a claim
- Select an appropriate provider to restore your property
Using a restoration partner to prepare for severe spring weather
Following any disaster, springtime or otherwise, your main objective is to get back to business and minimize downtime. Restoration partners like ServiceMaster DSI can be on the ground before the disaster occurs and work right alongside you throughout the cleanup process.
SMDSI’s new and innovative Pre-Disaster Program is unlike any other partnership offered in the industry. We’ve revolutionized the disaster preparedness process by empowering our partners to understand, prepare for and mitigate risk for common disasters like floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, mold damage, fire damage and more.