Until last year, Florida had not been directly hit by a hurricane since 2005. Yet, in 2004, the state was directly hit a record four times, which had never happened, dating back to 1850. Odds are Florida is due for another hurricane strike. In fact, according to the latest forecasts released by Colorado State University, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and The Weather Company, they are calling for 2017 to be an above-average hurricane season in the Atlantic. So if you do not already have one, now is the time to create a plan of action for your business.
In Part 1 of this two-part post, we will look at developing an organization-wide plan, based on recommendations from the American Society of Safety Engineers. Part 2 of this blog series will address hurricane preparedness from an IT perspective.
CIO Tech was able to help Bay Area Pool Services after a storm flooded their office.
Create a Comprehensive Plan
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires most companies to create an Emergency Action Plan (EAP), so you can easily incorporate your hurricane preparation into that plan. You should focus on policies and procedures that address employee safety during a hurricane; business continuity and contingency plans if your facilities are damaged; and protocol for addressing employees, customers, and vendors.
Specifically, you should target:
- Circumstances that will activate the plan
- Your chain of command
- Emergency functions and who will perform them
- Evacuation procedures, including routes and exits
- Procedures for accounting for employees, customers, and visitors
- Equipment for personnel
Determine Procedures and Assign Crisis Management Responsibilities
You need to ascertain which employees will be required to be on-site immediately after the hurricane (or even leading up to it), as well as those who are indispensable to the business function, even if they are not needed on-site. You also need to be clear regarding which employees are accountable and responsible for particular functions and make sure each of them knows how to carry out their emergency response duties.
Keep an Open Channel
Communicate with other local businesses so that you are familiar with their hurricane response plans and modify yours if you find something they do better that can be applied to your business. In addition, you should keep in contact with local emergency services organizations, such as police and fire departments, as well as hospitals and utility companies to understand how they can help during a hurricane. You will also want to keep your vendors apprised of your plan of action.
Ensure that all of your employees are well versed in your hurricane preparation plan, including making sure they understand their roles and responsibilities. Much like a fire drill, it is good practice to run a mock hurricane scenario so that employees know exactly what to do during an actual hurricane. You can then tweak it based on what you learned. Finally, you should create a preparedness checklist of all the items you will need if a hurricane hits and store those items in one location.
Annually Review Emergency Plans
Finally, ensure that your hurricane plan is up to date by reviewing it each year. Do not get lulled into a false sense of security by the fact that a hurricane has not directly hit your area of Florida in several years. There is a high probability that during the last decade much has changed both in your business and in the community, which could alter your plan.
Ensuring that you have a sound and comprehensive hurricane plan is essential for every business in Florida. Take the time to review it, practice it, and update it as needed.
But what about your IT needs? How do you get your business back to business? There are many options to consider such as relying on a managed IT company to store your data and restore your operations. In Part 2, we will look at hurricane preparedness from a business IT perspective.