[vc_row css_animation=”” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column][vc_column_text]Hurricane season is here again and, if you haven’t already, it is time for your company to review your disaster plan. The list below is intended to help you put your business’ plan in place. It might seem overwhelming so please Contact us if you need assistance!
Protecting important information and documents
- Make a list of crucial organization contacts important (such as a list of employees, your insurance company, bankers, suppliers, lawyers, accountants, etc.) to your organizations and secure duplicate copies (paper, smart phone, cloud storage, etc.)
- To avoid water damage, back-up (to multiple sources) vital records and documents (i.e. accounting statements, insurance documents, legal contracts, tax returns) that are not easily reproduced. Store paper copies in a water and wind-proof location; store electronic copies off-site or in cloud storage.
Hardware and equipment
Before the storm inventory all hardware and software.
When it is determined the stores will be closed or there is an evacuation:
- Move all registers, printers, routers, floor mounted displays, and other non-mounted hardware to the place with the highest elevation.
- Wrap each piece of equipment in a trash back and make sure it is air tight.
- Staff should take laptops, tablets, phones with them if they evacuate to a safe place.
- Document the location of each piece of equipment and where it’s from.
- No equipment should be left plugged in.
- Arrange for cleanup, repair, and restoration services for your facility with reputable firms outside of your immediate area, well in advance. This is very important since many organizations will probably be calling upon the same local clean-up services; you’ll be well-served by planning for your organizations clean-up beforehand.
- Establish a hurricane preparedness and response plan customized to your organization’s unique location, construction, operations and resources.
- Consider establishing a mutual aid agreement with an organization similar to yours that is located outside the storm’s impact area to share resources and serve as a possible evacuation site.
- Photograph the exterior and interior of your building as well as the contents. Store photos in a protected location, or email them to yourself to help document any loss.
- Notify your employees of the procedures that will take place in the event a hurricane warning or watch is issued.
- Address access to your facility after the storm. This may require contacting public authorities for official identification badges to enter what may become a restricted area.
- Determine what furnishings or major equipment will need to be protected or moved and document how you plan to accomplish it. You’ll have to decide if you want to try to protect them in place or move them out of the area at risk. Determine what manpower and any equipment you will need to get this done. If you’re planning to protect in place, move your equipment to well-protected interior rooms or the floors above the anticipate flooding level.
- Identify outside furnishings and equipment such as trash cans, signs, furniture, awnings, etc., that could be blown about and become “deadly projectiles” and determine either how they will be secured or where they will be stored.
- Make sure that any of your facility’s rooftop equipment such as air conditioning units, antennas, exhaust fans or turbines are firmly secured or strapped down to the roof structure (e.g., the joists) to withstand high winds.
- Ensure you have the necessary tools to board up windows and brace doors. The first priority in protecting your facility will be to keep the wind out. Wind pressure and windblown debris can break windows and blow in doors. Sliding glass doors, large picture windows, skylights, French doors, inward opening double doors, and garage doors are particularly vulnerable. Such tools as a circular or hand saw, a drill with appropriate bits, a hammer or nail gun, hand or power-driven screwdriver, and a wrench may be needed. Nails will be sufficient on wood-framed windows and doors but screws or bolts and washers are necessary for metal-framed windows and doors.
- Ensure that your staff knows how to turn off the utilities (gas, water, electricity) for your buildings at the main shut off switches.
Action Items – If evacuation is recommended by local officials:
- Close your operations and business.
- Revise telephone answering system to inform callers of facility closure.
- Transfer essential business records and valuables (if you haven’t done so already) to a safe location out of the evacuation area.
- Where possible, move furnishings away from exterior windows and doors and as many items as possible off the floor.
- Move expensive equipment out of the area or move it to the most heavily constructed interior area of you facility. If your locale is subject to surge flooding, move your equipment to floors above the anticipated surge level. Cover equipment that can’t be moved with plastic sheeting to minimize damage from leaking roofs or broken windows.
- Conduct an orderly shutdown of your computer(s) and sensitive electrical equipment and disconnect and unplug nonessential equipment to protect from damage caused by power surges immediately before or after an outage.
- Brace exterior doors that open inward and brace any roll-up doors. To prevent them from lifting from their tracks, wedge sliding doors. (Do not block emergency exits.)
- If you have storm shutters, close and lock them. If not, close, lock and board up your large windows and glass doors. Lower blinds and close curtains to help hold back flying debris. Remove after the storm to provide adequate ventilation.
- Turn off electricity, gas, water, and other utility services.
- Find the safest place for vehicles.
- Make sure your staff has departed your organization before evacuation routes become impassable due to flooding or high winds.
Action Items – If evacuation is not recommended:
- If local officials do not recommend evacuation of your area, your facility may still experience high winds and heavy rain generated by a hurricane.
- Take appropriate protective measures outlined above as a guide to reduce the vulnerability of wind and heavy rain damage.
- Have your building maintenance staff on standby and materials ready to expedite speedy repairs.
- Be prepared for loss of utilities. This means having battery-powered lights, radio, a supply of potable water and, if possible, an emergency generator.
After the hurricane >>
Reentering evacuated areas
- If you evacuated your facility, you may have difficulty returning quickly because roads may be damaged, blocked by debris, or flooded in low lying areas.
- Access to storm-damaged areas may be limited by local law enforcement personnel to keep people out of areas with dangerous conditions, facilitate rescue and recovery work, and limit access to unoccupied properties.
- After the hurricane passes, entry to storm-damaged areas may be limited to search and rescue personnel, law enforcement personnel, firefighters, utility crews, and road clearing teams. Once officials determine it is reasonably safe, property owners and essential employees will be cleared to enter the area, but they may be required to have a permit or pass, or be included on an access list maintained by the city. Contact your local emergency management office to determine the procedures for returning to storm-damaged areas.
- Listen to your radio or television stations (or check the internet if possible) and return only after an “all clear” is issued by authorities. Drive only if absolutely necessary, and avoid flooded roads and washed out bridges. Driving may be especially hazardous due to debris on the streets, emergency vehicles in operation, and nonworking traffic and street signals.
Checking your facility
- Enter your facility with caution. Beware of insects, snakes and animals driven to higher ground by flood waters.
- As soon as possible after the storm, assess any damage and look for obvious structural damage to your facility and its foundations. If you see significant damage, don’t attempt to enter the affected building. Also inspect the roof, roof mounted equipment, walls, doors and windows (outside and inside).
- If possible, cover up openings in the building shell with plastic sheeting or tarpaulins.
- Identify immediate hazards, such as downed or dangling electrical lines, leaking gas, broken sewers, flammable liquids (or other hazardous materials) and broken water pipes on your property. Exercise extreme caution and stay away from downed power lines and broken sewer lines. Do not take lanterns, torches or any kind of open flame into a damaged building as there may be leaking gas or other flammable materials present. Report any damage to power, water or wastewater equipment to your utility company.
- Make sure the electrical outlets and appliances throughout your facility are dry and free of water before turning the power back on. If you have any doubt about the condition of wiring or appliances, have an electrician check them to make sure there are no short circuits.
- Clean up debris, remove water.
- Clean roof drains and remove debris to prevent drainage problems.
- Use fans to speed the drying process. Do NOT use heaters.