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Severe Weather Preparation and Recovery: Important Tips for Your Business

By October 23, 2021 No Comments

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Severe Weather Preparation and Recovery: Important Tips for Your Business

By Rakesh Gupta

CEO at biBERK

The risk of severe weather exists in every geographic region of the U.S. Tornadoes in the Midwest, hurricanes in coastal areas, blizzards and ice storms in northern states, heavy rains and flooding in low-lying areas throughout the country—these and other destructive weather events can take a heavy toll on individuals and organizations that are unprepared.

 

“It’s not surprising that the companies that take proactive steps to protect themselves from severe weather are the ones that are operational most quickly following an event,” says Peter Shelley, president at biBERK, a Berkshire Hathaway Direct company. “They’ve invested time and effort in advance, and that investment pays off in a rapid and safe return to generating revenue in the wake of a storm.”

 

Severe Weather Preparation: Ensure That Your Business is Ready

 

Your company’s location and weather risks will dictate the specific steps you should take to prepare for severe weather. Below are some general actions you can take to limit damage to your property and make it easier to get back up and running after a storm:

 

  • Create and document a severe weather action plan. Having a mental checklist of things to do when severe weather threatens is not enough, especially since the stress of a weather event can make it hard to recall all the items on that list. Instead, document the actions that need to be completed and by whom. Then make that document readily available to your employees.
  • Keep an eye on the weather. It is easy to miss weather forecasts when you are immersed in day-to-day operations. But to protect your business, you need to know when to initiate your severe weather action plan. For example, if the forecast is for extreme cold, you need to know when to leave faucets dripping overnight so you don’t arrive the next morning to find frozen pipes.
  • Prioritize protecting your people. Ensuring the safety of your employees must be your top priority. That means you need to complete any preparations far enough in advance that your team members can make it safely to wherever they will weather the storm.
  • Take action to protect your property. These actions vary depending on the type of weather that affects your area, of course. For example, in hurricane-prone areas, boarding up windows can help keep them intact. In areas where flooding is common, moving valuable assets and important records to higher ground is prudent. And don’t forget about assets that are not inside your facility—vehicles, equipment, etc.
  • Contact customers, vendors, and others as appropriate. Especially if your customers or business partners are outside your area and may not be aware of the weather emergency, it is important to let them know about the challenges you are facing. This may include direct outreach and also putting a temporary notice on your website that lets people know about potential changes in your business operations.
  • Establish relationships with providers who can aid in your recovery. Knowing who to call about broken windows, roof damage, flooded facilities, etc. in advance of a weather emergency means you will not have to scramble to find providers after the event.
  • Have the right small business insurance in place. Property & liability insurance (sometimes called a business owners policy or BOP) typically covers wind damage to your building, as well as business and personal property in your building. However, it likely does not cover damage caused by flooding, tidal action, or other water damage. Flood insurance, typically provided by the National Flood Insurance Program, is needed to cover those and related risks.

 

Severe Weather Recovery: Keep Safety in Mind When Reopening Your Business

 

“Being prepared for destructive weather events is just part of the equation,” adds Shelley. “Knowing how to move forward safely and effectively after they occur is equally important.”

 

Keep in mind that the risk of injury and additional property damage is not over simply because a storm has moved out of the area. Taking the actions below will help minimize risks to you and your employees, and get your business operational as quickly as possible.

 

  • Consider the structural integrity of your building before entering it. If the building you operate out of shows any signs of serious structural damage (the building is leaning, the roof is sagging, etc.) do not go inside. Contact your local building official and a structural engineer for assistance in determining if it is safe to enter.
  • Check on your electrical service. Consider any downed power lines or damaged electrical infrastructure as live and extremely dangerous. Keep people at a safe distance and contact your utility company immediately. If flooding has occurred, stay away from outlets, switches, and other electrical systems until a qualified electrician can inspect them.
  • Be alert for gas leaks. If you notice a “rotten egg” smell, assume that it is caused by a propane or natural gas leak and leave the area immediately. Contact the fire department and your utility company for assistance once you are away from the building, and ensure that no one enters until an inspection is performed.
  • Look for sanitation issues. Storm damage can affect drinking water quality, and if food stored in your building has gotten wet or been left unrefrigerated due to a power outage, contamination and spoilage are possible. Be aware of alerts regarding your water supply and inspect any foods that may have been affected.

 

Be Ready When Storm Season Arrives

 

The sooner you create your severe weather action plan, the better. Having it in place allows you to focus on running your business confident that you and your employees are prepared to respond to weather emergencies.

 

It is also a good idea to review your business insurance policies regularly and make changes if you or your provider find any coverage gaps. If your company is in an area that has a specific “storm season,” you should do this assessment before it begins. And, it is important to report claims promptly so that you can get your business back up and running as quickly as possible after a severe weather event.

 

Maintaining proper coverage ensures that your business has financial protection regardless of what kind of weather is on the horizon.

 

About Rakesh Gupta 

Rakesh Gupta is chief operating officer at biBERK, part of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway company. biBERK specializes in commercial insurance for small businesses. In his role, Gupta focuses on simplifying the insurance buying experience using technology and process innovations that make it easier for small business owners to get the coverage they need.

 

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