Hurricane season officially started on June 1 this year, and The Weather Channel predicts it will be the most active season since 2012. That's the year Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc along the eastern seaboard.
Yeah, it could be that kind of year for the Atlantic coast.
The only good thing about a hurricane is you get a decent amount of warning before it hits your area. We contacted a few experts with some serious storm experience for pointers on how to prep for hurricane season. Here’s what they said.
1. Make a Communications Plan
Bill Corbett Jr. (@wjcorbett), media relations expert and president of Corbett Public Relations, may not be a disaster prep specialist, but he brings some firsthand knowledge to the table after surviving Hurricane Sandy. He says communication was the major problem once the area lost power and access to gasoline, and he suggests you develop a plan for that scenario.
For example, your plan might include…
- Instructions for communicating to staff, vendors, and clientele prior to the storm.
- How to communicate when power, phones, cell phones, and Internet are not available.
- Contact information for essential staff members, vendors, and government offices.
- A list of important passwords and account numbers. (Consider encrypting or limiting access to this information.)
“Your plan should be kept at the office, and key management and staff should have a copy at home,” says Corbett. “Electronic versions of the plan can also be kept offsite, but if power is down, you have to work with a hard copy.”
Finally, Corbett says you can’t rely on cell communications. “Having a standard phone line can be a life saver,” he notes.
Pro tip: Plans are more effective when they're rehearsed. “Have at least one plan review and practice drill annually,” says Corbett.
2. Check on Your Employees
As the owner of the disaster preparedness company Ready Northwest (@Ready_Northwest), Edward Colson advises organizations on continuity planning. His first suggestion to small-business owners? Make sure your employees are safe. Part of your communication plan might include a method for a quick employee head count.
Pro tip: An emergency kit is another way to ensure your employees are safe during a disaster. Colson suggests having enough supplies on hand to weather a storm for more than 72 hours. Your kit might include…
- Drinking water.
- Nonperishable food.
- A can opener.
- A battery-operated or hand crank radio.
- First aid supplies.
Turn to Ready.gov for more supplies to put in your disaster readiness kit.
3. Prepare for the Physical Damage
Colson says to consider the physical damage a hurricane might cause and take steps to minimize it. For example, he recommends putting up protective boards and taking high-value items off the ground.
“A small-business owner would also need to make sure that their data is backed up somewhere offsite because their business may be inaccessible after a storm,” says Colson.
Pro tip: You may want to check your Commercial Property Insurance. “After the storm hits, insurance agents will be very busy," Colson notes. "Now is the time to find out what is covered and the process for making a claim.”
Small business insurance is an important part of your hurricane prep. Learn more in “Only One-Third of Small Businesses Have This Disaster Survival Tool.”
Meet the Contributors
Edward Colson is the owner of Ready Northwest, a consulting firm that assists businesses and organizations to prepare for disruptions caused by natural and man-made events through the creation of emergency preparedness kits and business continuity planning. He has over eight years of experience working in emergency preparedness, communications, and response, and possesses a degree in emergency management.
Bill Corbett is president of Corbett Public Relations, an award-winning professional public and media relations firm based in Floral Park, New York. He is a recognized public relations, media relations, crisis communications, digital media, and personal branding expert with over 25 years of experience. Known for effectively building and protecting reputations and brands, Corbett’s mission is to provide businesses and entrepreneurial-minded individuals with effective and goal-focused marketing strategies and services.