In addition to September being National Preparedness Month, we are also now right in the middle of hurricane season, which officially occurs from June 1 until November 30. It’s important for businesses that could be in the path of a storm to review their emergency preparations.
Hurricanes Isaias and Laura have already caused extensive damage in the United States, and as of this writing meteorologists are closely watching the approaching Hurricane Sally as a potential source of widespread flooding. In fact, there have been so many storms this season that we’re running out of alphabetical names and may soon need to move to the Greek alphabet to name new storms for only the second time in history.
In short, the season is far from over and poses a significant health and safety danger. If you haven’t already done so, take these 10 essential steps to make sure your facilities and your workers are protected.
Establish a clear chain of command to make decisions regarding company closings, reopenings, and other storm-related issues, and communicate that chain of command throughout your organization. Ensure that decision-makers will be able to communicate with one another during and after the storm.
Identify any personnel who need to remain on-site during the storm to perform critical operations and emergency services. Arrange for food, shelter, and any other necessary supplies for these employees, and establish evacuation procedures for these employees if the workplace becomes unsafe.
Review your company closing policy and procedures with employees. Make sure employees know where, how, and from whom to find out both about company closings and about reopening and resumption of business when the storm has passed.
Develop procedures to account for and communicate with employees during and after the storm via any available means. Text messages are often more reliable than phone calls during network outages.
Review your work-from-home policy. Even if you do not ordinarily allow employees to work from home (although there’s a good bet that many are now due to COVID-19), you might consider creating an emergency exception if the type of work your employees perform could safely be done remotely.
Inspect your facility for areas vulnerable to storm damage and for any other potential hazards a major storm could create. Consider both the physical hazards of high winds, heavy rain, and flooding, and the hazards associated with a prolonged power outage or loss of other essential utilities.
Review emergency shutdown procedures with workers who will be required to perform them.
Take any necessary actions to physically secure and protect your facility. This could include boarding up windows, bringing equipment or materials indoors, shutting down equipment or machinery, and shutting off power, for example.
Consider purchasing extra supplies such as nonperishable food, clean water, batteries, blankets, and fuel to make available to employees either before or after the storm. Contact your suppliers ahead of time to make sure they have the items you need.
After the storm, perform a thorough inspection of your facility and correct hazardous conditions before allowing workers to return. Check for issues including structural integrity, electrical hazards, ventilation, lighting, slip and fall hazards, debris, and machinery hazards.