Climate risks and extreme weather events will continue to affect how we live and how we do business. Extreme weather includes heat waves, unexpectedly heavy or long periods of rainfall, droughts, snowstorms, hailstorms, hurricanes and tornadoes. Depending on the severity of the event, you could have significant property damage or fleet and auto damage. Extreme weather can also cause flooding, which will require water damage mitigation.
Supply chain disruption
Extreme weather is expected to take its toll on communities and businesses across the country. For industries such as manufacturing, healthcare and construction, where equipment is involved, extreme weather events could cause equipment breakdown, leading to lost production and income, or business or supply chain disruption.
For businesses large and small, loss of income due to business interruption from extreme weather has been increasing as climate volatility increases. Whether your operations are slowed, your doors are closed, or your transportation comes to halt, severe weather events can cause devastating outcomes to lost production and lost income.
From snow storms to windstorms, from flooding to building structure damage, employers need to have an emergency preparedness and action plans in place to protect employees from injuries. Possible slip, trip and fall, workers’ compensation, accident and health or general liability claims have to be considered.
Update your emergency action plan
When high winds or hurricanes are on the horizon, an up-to-date hurricane emergency action plan can be your best defense for safeguarding your employees and protecting your business. Your plan should be a living document, which you review and revise each year before hurricane season begins and after any major storm.
Zurich’s experienced risk engineering team recommends that the plan covers specific actions to take:
- Before hurricane season begins
- 48 hours before hurricane landfall
- 36 hours before hurricane landfall
- During a hurricane
- After a hurricane
An effective hurricane emergency action plan should also be:
- Quick: Fitting into a reasonable timeframe starting 48 hours before hurricane landfall
- Simple: Featuring checklists to guide actions and provide reminders
- Practiced: Fully tested to verify time, staff and resource needs
Start with the “easy” actions
A hurricane watch is issued 48 hours before a hurricane is expected to affect your location. That’s the time to implement the “easy” actions identified by Zurich’s risk engineers.
- Check building roofs, and repair coverings and flashing as needed
- Remove loose equipment and debris from roofs
- Fill fuel tanks serving emergency generators and other vital services
- Verify dewatering pumps are in service and working
- Verify outside drains and catch basins are clean
- Remove debris from outdoor areas
- Remove loose, outdoor, inactive equipment
- Back up computer data
- For healthcare, verify that 96 hours of supplies are on hand
- For manufacturing, ship out as much stock as possible. Verify remaining stock is skidded at least 4 inches above the floor
- For new construction projects, remove loose equipment and temporarily brace new construction
- Add specific actions to this list, based on the unique needs of your business
Time for the “tough” actions
Between the time a hurricane watch is issued (48 hours before landfall) and a hurricane warning is issued (36 hours before landfall), use available time and resources to tackle the “tough” actions recommended by Zurich’s risk engineers. Leave plenty of time to evacuate personnel who will not be remaining on site.
Tough actions may include:
- Protecting or relocating vital business records.
- Removing all loose outdoor storage or equipment.
- Anchoring portable buildings or trailers to the ground.
- Securing outdoor storage or equipment that cannot be moved.
- Starting the installation of manual protection systems, such as shutters, plywood covers and flood gates.
- Raising critical equipment off floors.
- Moving critical equipment from below grade areas.
- Covering critical stock and equipment with waterproof tarpaulins.
- Initiating an orderly shutdown of production equipment and systems that rely upon normal power.
- Turning off fuel gas services.
- Turning off non-essential electrical systems.
- Verifying all fire protection systems are in service.
- Completing any actions that have been specified for your business.
Your first concern during a severe storm is personnel safety. Depending upon your type of business, you may decide to keep some employees on site during a storm. Hotels, hospitals and other types of facilities may also have others besides employees on site.
If you decide to allow employees to volunteer to remain onsite as an Emergency Response Team (ERT):
- Verify that local authorities will allow your ERT to remain on site, and follow all mandatory evacuation orders.
- Determine whether the location, design and building construction make it a safe place for the ERT members to be during the storm.
- Make sure ERT members are trained in all aspects of the emergency action plan.
- Include ERT representatives with decision-making authority and knowledge of facility operations. Also add security personal to the ERT, as required.
- Prepare an ERT supply kit with items necessary during and immediately after the storm; Two-way radios, Portable AM/FM radios, Flashlights, lanterns and plenty of batteries, Rubber boots and gloves, Blankets or sleeping bags,First-aid kit, Spare clothing, Enough shelf-stable food and water to last at least 72 hours
- Anticipate loss of electrical power and municipal water for several days after the storm.
- Conduct drills to test all aspects of the action plan on at least an annual basis. Ensure the plan reflects current conditions at the location. Request feedback from ERT members to assess the effectiveness of the plan and identify areas for improvement.
- Develop storm-tracking procedures and ensure the ERT is capable of monitoring conditions using various media and equipment (e.g., radio, TV, Internet and mobile phone).
- If the facility is in an area exposed to flooding or storm surge, develop specific response procedures as part of the emergency action plan to manage water exposures.
- During the height of the storm, make sure the ERT personnel remain in a location that has been secured from wind and flood.
Once the storm is over, you begin the task of getting your business running again as quickly as possible. At this point your primary focus should still be on personnel safety. Secondly, you should be doing everything possible to mitigate further damage or property losses. Here are the key steps you should consider taking after a major windstorm:
- Start with safety. Check with local authorities to find out if the area around your building and the building itself are safe to enter.
- Conduct a hazard assessment.
- Report fire protection system outages to Zurich. Access the Zurich New Impairment Notification website to report the outage.
- Perform emergency repairs, such as boarding up broken windows and openings, placing tarps where needed to prevent water damage and restoring water service.
- Separate damaged contents from non-damaged.
- Prioritize key resources and equipment to save.
- If the loss site must be altered to minimize further damage, take detailed photographs to document the damage.
- Report your claim as soon as possible.
- Contact restoration contractors identified in your pre-season planning.