Natural Disaster Preparation and Response Checklist
Updated: Mar 25, 2019
Last year was especially damaging for people across the USA and neighboring territories. From the hurricanes that destroyed Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico, to the California wildfires, 2017 was a year dominated by mother nature.
As a retail facility maintenance professional there are many steps that you can take to minimize casualties, but if a storm is going to hit, there is nothing that you can do to stop it. However, as soon as the storm has hit, your work truly begins. Here is a checklist of 10 items that you need to consider in the immediate aftermath of a storm hitting your stores:
(1) Employees: Is everyone safe? Are you able to communicate with them and confirm that everyone survived?
(2) The store - What damage did you experience? Is it a simple clean up with some new fixtures and carpet, or does your store need a complete overhaul?
(3) Merchandise - Do you actually have product to sell to your customers? If not, what is the lead time on getting the merchandise that you need?
(4) Customers - How is your company communicating with your patrons? Are they kept up to date with the latest happenings at their local store? Can they make online purchases while your store is being cleaned?
(5) Lease terms - How much longer will you be in the building for? Does it make sense to bring the store back online or should it remain dark until the term expires?
(6) Preparation for future events - Natural disasters tend to be very specific from a geographical standpoint. We know that hurricanes will typically impact the Eastern seaboard and Gulf States, Tornadoes will hit Texas and states to the north including Oklahoma, Missouri, and our home state of Kansas, and wildfires are prevalent in California. With this in mind, it's never a bad idea to start preparing for the next potential disaster. Even though you are still coming to terms with what has already happened, the next event could be just around the corner, so it is critical to be prepared and keep an eye on the weather forecast for potential events.
(7) Security - It's a very sad thing to discuss, but unfortunately there are some people who will knock you while you are down. One of the biggest threats after a natural disaster, is the risk of looting. Work with your loss prevention team to make sure that you do everything possible to protect your assets in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
(8) Controlling costs - Unfortunately, natural disasters tend to impact huge geographic areas which creates high demand for labor and materials. Many local contractors will try to take advantage of this by charging premium prices due to your need to get your space back up and running.
(9) Insurance claims - This is often something that is handled through the corporate office, but there is a strong chance that some responsibility will fall on your shoulders. Try to document all inventory ahead of time so that you have evidence to back up the claims that you are making. This will significantly expedite the process and will also reduce your workload and stress levels during the rebuilding and reopening phase.
(10) Lessons Learned - Once everything has been and gone, now you are responsible for evaluating your preparation and clean up efforts as well as looking at lessons learned. What could be done better next time? What materials can you have in place ahead of time to minimize damage? Are there more efficient and reliable ways of communicating available?
We would love to hear your tips and tricks so please leave your thoughts in the comment box below. If you have had stores and employees that have been impacted by natural disasters, we would love to find out more about the lessons learned and how your experience can help others in the future. Please share your comments and let's use the FMS community to enhance natural disaster preparation and responses to minimize losses. Thank you!