Climate change has ushered in more frequent and severe weather patterns, challenging business leaders to take additional safeguards. While solving the problem will ultimately depend on emerging technology, entrepreneurs must adapt to ensure their enterprises’ ongoing viability.
What steps should savvy leaders take, and what should they include in a comprehensive preparedness plan? How can they facilitate communication during emergencies and protect their infrastructure and assets? Here’s what entrepreneurs need to know about braving the storm and some realistic measures businesses can take to handle severe weather events.
Assess Your Risk and Vulnerabilities
The first step is to assess unique risks and vulnerabilities. These vary depending on business location and industry sector.
Entrepreneurs should practice mindfulness exercises before taking this step. Although protection is vital, it’s highly unlikely that what the prepper crowd calls “TEOTWAWKI” — the end of the world as we know it — will occur. It’s far more pragmatic to plan for foreseeable disasters. These fall into two general categories.
1. Area-Specific Risks
This step requires you to investigate disaster statistics in your business’s base of operations and prepare accordingly. For example, according to estimates, Canada experienced 14 major catastrophic events in 2021, with the total insured loss adding up to $2.04 billion.
Understanding area-specific risks will inform how you respond to them. For instance, those in regions plagued by wildfires and smoke should understand the importance of a well-running HVAC system and should have an escape plan. Businesses in areas where floods are common should have a plan in place to protect electronic assets.
2. Business-Specific Risks
These scenarios are unique to your business circumstances. For example, tech companies may need to protect against weather-related internet outages, while a trucking company must train drivers on how to safely navigate roads suddenly rendered dangerous.
Develop a Preparedness Plan
After assessing risks and vulnerabilities, it’s time to craft a weather preparedness plan and determine who will enforce it. Follow these steps to create your plan.
1. Establish an Emergency Response Team
Who should entrepreneurs trust as members of their emergency response team? Although it’s logical and necessary to involve leadership, diversity drives superior results. Consider a survey to identify staff members who have successfully navigated natural disasters — like floods or hurricanes — in the past and invite them to participate.
You can also identify employees who are good in high-pressure situations and encourage them to join your committee.
2. Create an Emergency Response Plan
Once the team assembles, their job becomes creating a weather preparedness plan for the business. They must answer questions such as:
- What circumstances will prompt an immediate evacuation? How can all staff and customers evacuate safely?
- What conditions will cause temporary business closure? Who will make the call? Who will notify staff to remain home and via what means?
- What happens to critical records in an emergency? Who is responsible for ensuring they follow procedures to secure the necessary documentation?
- What security and disaster protection measures does the facility have in place? What are the building’s vulnerabilities? Is there a realistic, cost-effective way to reduce the risk of damage from fires, floods, snowstorms or hurricanes?
3. Implement Business Continuity Strategies
It’s as crucial to know what to do when the smoke clears as it is to have a plan for managing a disaster as it occurs. Business owners should ask themselves what they will need to rebuild in a worst-case scenario and take measures to secure their interests.
Typically, these measures involve increasing insurance coverage to replace items lost through fires, floods or storm winds. While physical objects may be relatively simple to replace, electronic data could pose more of a challenge. You’ll likely want to store data in the cloud to ensure it doesn’t get lost amid a weather disaster.
You may also shift company operations and encourage employees to work remotely while a building is repaired.
Employee Training and Communication
A business is a team of interdependent individuals. Like any system consisting of moving parts, it requires all components — or staff members — to work together to function. Therefore, leadership must facilitate employee training and communication to ensure everyone knows what to do in a crisis.
1. Conduct Regular Trainings
Just as families should conduct fire escape drills at home, businesses should rehearse safe evacuation procedures at least once per year. While such events might cause a few giggles, they also make staff members feel more secure that their employer looks out for their well-being.
While it’s tempting to schedule unplanned drills to mimic a real-life situation, doing so increases anxiety and risks, making people treat future events as false alarms. Instead, leaders should plan events and advise staff members on what they should do to improve their comfort and proficiency.
2. Establish Communication Methods
Today’s workforce diaspora means that your team members could be all over the country, even the world. The good news is that many of them will remain unaffected by the same extreme weather event. However, even remote employees must know what’s going on with the business.
Additionally, those with crews in the field must establish communication lines. Many businesses opt to provide phones, pagers or walkie-talkies for this purpose. Another option is an app that all members can download to their phones. Part of annual safety training should cover procedures regarding who notifies whom in the chain of command.
Protect Infrastructure and Assets
The final step in a weather preparedness plan for business is taking proactive measures to safeguard business assets. How much each enterprise devotes to each aspect depends upon their industry, but in general, leaders should evaluate these categories.
1. Physical Buildings
Physical buildings need protection against storm surges. Suggested interventions include:
- Ensuring adequate insurance coverage to rebuild.
- Amassing materials to protect buildings against storms, including sandbags and shutters.
- Ensuring all alarms and sprinklers operate via regular testing.
- Installing camera systems to help determine what assets were lost.
2. Freestanding Assets
Take these measures to protect your freestanding assets:
- Locate a locked facility for safeguarding heavy equipment like bulldozers and vehicle fleets.
- Secure servers and files in fireproof locations.
- Maintain adequate insurance coverage.
Protect Your Business With a Weather Preparedness Plan
Climate change has ushered in stronger, more severe weather events. Business leaders must prepare to meet these challenges and ensure the ongoing profitability of their enterprise.
Those in charge should review their procedures to ensure they cover the potential issues covered in this guide. Businesses can brave storms and weather disasters with the right preparedness plan.