Preparing Your Business for Hurricane Season

Hurricane season in Louisiana begins in June and lasts through November. That’s half the year, so hurricane preparedness is a vital part of living here. Unfortunately, too many business owners find themselves unprepared when a hurricane strikes. According to statistics from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), 40 percent of businesses never reopen after experiencing a disaster. Of those that do, 25 percent will close their doors within the year. To keep the odds in your favor, hurricane preparation for businesses is vital to keeping commercial doors open. 

  • Craft a written emergency plan. Creating a formal document forces you to think about all of the aspects of your business so that you can develop strategies to protect or preserve them from the effects of a natural disaster. The result is a reference document or handbook that everyone can use to ensure that everything is done to plan and that nothing is overlooked.

    Start with a comprehensive list. Then, flesh it out into an organized outline of sound instructions and guidance. Good places to start for crafting a written emergency plan include resources like the Small Business Administration’s Hurricane Preparedness site or, for more intensive guidance, FEMA’s Ready Business Hurricane Toolkit. NOAA—the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also offers lots of resources on its website. At the very least, these agencies’ recommendations and guidance demonstrate the reach and scale of a hurricane’s potential effect on a business.

    Your written hurricane emergency plan for your business should be shareable online, but you should also have a published hard copy safely stored to ensure your written plan remains an available reference resource.
  • Offer hurricane preparedness training to your employees. Your employees need to not only know that you have a preparedness plan for their workplace but also understand and be familiar with their roles within it. Depending on the size and extent of your business, you may want to allocate team responsibilities among your staff for both preparedness planning and actions needed during a disaster.

    Annual training sessions can teach new employees and offer refresher training to seasoned workers. Sessions can also serve as venues for highlighting areas that need updates or fine-tuning through employee feedback. A vital part of training is ensuring that everyone is familiar with the points of contact and protocols for maintaining communications during and following a disaster.
  • Protect your physical property. Physical property represents an extensive set of considerations. First is whether you own your buildings and properties versus leasing them.
    • If you own the property, you’ll be responsible for the building and the structures on the property. Experts recommend having the roof routinely inspected to ensure it can withstand an intense storm, for example. Windows and doors will need protection—typically plywood panels that should be purchased, measured and fitted, and stored in advance. You may need to store sandbags to protect areas against flooding or look into water diversion strategies.

      Objects outside buildings can become hazards—trees, overhanging limbs, outside seating, equipment, or even merchandise—and will need maintenance and possibly secure storage prior to an event. Inside buildings, items that require power or utilities—water heaters, HVAC systems, or technical equipment—may need protection. If possible, utilities should be shut off prior to a hurricane making landfall.

    • If you lease the property, you’ll need to ensure that the owner has precautions in place as you’ll still be responsible for your contents, inventory, equipment and other items you may have on the property. Depending on your lease, you may be responsible for certain preparedness measures.

      Own or lease, you’ll need to protect all of the items and personal property associated with your business. That may include equipment, raw materials, finished materials, machinery, or company vehicles, for example
  • Protect your business systems and sensitive information. A business is basically an amassed body of transactions, records, and documents regarding everything from customers and vendors to banking, insurance, and legal representatives. Losing even some of that information can have devastating financial and legal implications. Routinely back up operational systems, and maintain secure off-site or cloud storage to ensure the integrity of your information, data, and documents.

    Experts often include measures to protect office and operational software and hardware as a part of protecting your information and data due to accessibility and security issues. You may need to put in place additional operational and security measures if you must operate from remote or alternate interim locations.

  • Consider alternate sites for interim relocation. If your normal site of business is unsafe, you may need to move inventory, fixtures, personnel, equipment, or operations to a temporary location or even permanently relocate. Having an idea in advance of what that might look like or what you might have to do to make it work involves having not only the location but also the logistics to make the transition.

  • Maintain a business emergency kit. If you or your employees are caught onsite during a hurricane, having a cache of certain supplies will prove invaluable to your ability to know what’s happening and be able to survive. The term kit implies something compact and small, but the list of recommended items needs to be able to sustain you and your employees should the worst happen.
    • A supply of nonperishables should represent three days of food for employees.
    • Potable water supplies should represent three days at a rate of one gallon per person per day.
    • For power, include a generator, batteries, flashlights and light sticks, and gasoline.
    • Ensure you have a way of monitoring what’s happening before, during, and after an event—a battery-operated radio or chargers and a mobile hotspot for your phone, for example.
    • Keep multiple first aid kits fully stocked.
    • Consider additional recommended supplies like cleaning items, hardware, tools, and tarps as well as humanitarian items like blankets and cots.

      Depending on your business, your emergency supplies may be more specific or extensive. Businesses that handle animals—veterinary clinics, groomers, or trainers, for example—may have additional considerations. Similarly, businesses responsible for children, such as daycares or activity providers, need to coordinate policy with emergency provisions.
  • Make sure that you’re fully insured. Doing business in a region of the country where hurricane season lasts half the year carries with it special considerations.
    • You need to be prepared for interruptions in business.
      • Business interruption coverage is optional under many commercial property insurance policies, but it may be included in your business owner’s policy. Contact Dwight Andrus Insurance today to see if you are covered should you experience a business interruption due to extreme weather.
    • You may need special riders to cover damages from a hurricane or extreme weather like hail or wind.
    • Flood insurance requires separate policies that are administered through the National Flood Insurance Program but are purchased through private insurance agencies. The flood policies cover damages to the building as well as damages to the contents.

      Even under normal conditions, you should review your commercial insurance policies annually to ensure that your riders and coverages continue to evolve with the growth and changes in your business. You don’t want to be paying for options that you don’t need, but you also want to be sure that valuable assets are always fully covered for their current replacement values and that you’ll be able to fulfill all of your responsibilities to your employees.

The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season was above average for the sixth year in a row according to NOAA. It exhausted all 21 named storms and accounted for seven hurricanes, with four of those being “major hurricanes.” Each year, the weather comes, and businesses all over Louisiana must decide how they’ll prepare. Considering the current active hurricane cycle, hurricane preparation for businesses becomes increasingly important.

This year, reach out to the business insurance specialists at Dwight Andrus. We offer custom insurance solutions that can help you protect your customers, your employees, and every aspect of your business every day of the year—hurricane season and beyond.