Weathering the hurricane season
Updated: Mar 25, 2019
Luckily, 2018 has brought us a below-average hurricane season; for the first time in 30 years we’re staying below the annual average of 12 named storms. Unluckily, even a below-average hurricane season brings approximately 10 named storms, four hurricanes, and at least one major hurricane. Last year Hurricane Harvey destroyed large parts of Houston, TX, with flooding and severe storms. Then shortly after that, the entire island of Puerto Rico was ravaged by Hurricane Maria leaving the residents without power and potable water for several days. With that in mind, let’s talk about hurricane preparedness in the retail service industry.
Preparation Prior to Storm
Naturally, the first step is establishing an emergency response plan (ERP) for your location (if not given one by management).
Develop a well-defined protocol regarding communication before, during and after an event, and then create an emergency response manual for operations. Every manual should include what to do in the event of water and/or electricity interruption, especially if people are in the space when it occurs (more on that below).
First Insurance Company of Hawaii, who know what they’re talking about when it comes to tropical storms, suggests you “establish an emergency employee alert tree and regularly update contact information” to ensure all staff is kept up to date.
Identify responsible, calm, and trustworthy staff members to whom you can rely on to follow protocols and fulfill responsibilities in the ERP; a Crisis Response Team of sorts.
Back up all data to an outside server, repeatedly, consistently.
Have a licensed HVAC technician visit your site and inspect your system, and pay close attention to any recommendations he or she may have on additional measures to take in the event of a storm. Invest in a point of entry surge protector to avoid power surges than can knock out the HVAC system.
As far as the physical space:
Your belongings - If your store has outdoor accessories, signs, flags, wavy arm guys, etc., make a plan on how to get most of it inside prior to a storm
Your supplies - Maintain an updated inventory list of products, store furnishings, etc.
Insurance coverage - Consult your insurance agent to confirm you have the appropriate, comprehensive coverage, and it’s up to date – or, if your space is leased, confirm with your landlord any insurance protocols
Temporary barriers - Keep a supply of plywood on hand to provide extra security against weaker doors, and to cover windows(either before or after they’re broken)
Power and lighting - Look into having a portable generator on hand, as well as the usual: flashlights, radios,lanterns or candles, alternative energy sources
Keep abreast of evacuation areas and newly released evacuation plans; you’ll either want to know you have to evacuate, or you’ll want to know you might have evacuees looking for shelter.
As Storm Approaches
Regardless of whether or not a storm is on its way, you should consistently review the ERP with staff throughout the hurricane season to ensure confidence and competence. This should include continued checks with those staff members assigned responsibilities during the storm. As the storm approaches, a final check with staff to confirm readiness will be quick and seamless. Naturally, keeping in consistent contact with corporate spokespeople as well as internal safety personnel, if applicable, is also advised.
Secure the physical property to minimize effects of wind and rain, and turn off your HVAC system, then cover and secure all HVAC equipment. If applicable, secure outside AC units with hurricane straps. If your business owns and operates vehicles, move each to an off-site location away from the soon-to-be affected areas.
It never hurts to stock water, non-perishable food, blankets and possibly clothing in the event your space becomes a place of refuge. And while this may feel silly, fully charge your cell phone, tablet, laptop, any electronic device with communication capabilities .
If Storm Hits While Store is Open to Customers
Shut off the breakers
Communicate with employees and patrons
Stay calm, follow all emergency protocols
Determine whether or not the establishment can continue to operate
DO NOT PRICE GOUGE! - This is highly frowned upon and will do nothing positive for your brand
Following the Storm
Work with your insurance company to repair any structural damage (such as a damaged roof or loose shingles) as soon as possible. Fully inspect your AC unit before turning it back on (dry and clear), and consider getting that HVAC tech back out if anything about the equipment looks fishy, wet, or shorted out.
If you were not able to secure or bring inside any outdoor accessories, make a list of what’s missing and/or broken, and follow up with neighboring retailers/restaurants/buildings/houses to confirm your property didn’t do any damage.
With preparation and consistency in communication, you and your team can minimize the fallout of any storm or hurricane. Click HERE to learn more about how facility management companies can help you weather the hurricane season.