Hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding may be top of mind when you think about disruptive weather, but the challenges of winter should not be neglected. The 2020 ice storm that rocked Texas serves as a reminder that winter conditions can pose a great risk, no matter where you live. When severe winter weather is in the forecast, businesses must turn their focus to safeguarding life, mitigating risks, and reducing operational and financial costs. Here are five ways to support business continuity in the event of a winter storm.
All-hazards emergency preparedness plans need to be tailored to address the types of weather that threaten a business’ location and dictate the appropriate steps of action to take in advance of, during and after a storm. Businesses should conduct a full circle vulnerability risk assessment of assets well before storm season, ensuring that all potential impacts are reviewed. This includes looking at facilities, transportation, utilities, communications, and staffing. From these assessments, mitigation strategies can be drafted and become part of the response plan.
Once a plan is in place it needs to be disseminated to all staff and practice drills implemented. Staff need an opportunity to run through procedures, know exactly what to expect in an emergency, and understand their individual responsibilities.
Accurate and timely information is key to decision making in any emergency scenario. Establishing a network of resources, both public and private, is a top priority for emergency managers. Private resources such as professional 24/7 weather intelligence services can provide reliable data and customized alerts for the GPS coordinates of any business. Public resources include national and local government, who provide safety guidelines for the community. An Incident Management Team can play a vital role in managing this critical flow of information and facilitate the necessary response.
No matter the size of an employee base, every individual needs factual and succinct information to prepare for severe weather. Companies can establish various forms of communication - email, text message or automated phone messages - to reach their entire staff to communicate the situation, actions to be taken, and company objectives covering a specific timeline. Include options for pre-set responses that tell if employees are impacted or need assistance.
For personnel to be able to support a business during a hurricane or storm, their homes and families need to be ready for the event. Businesses can share best practices and checklists for employees to prepare their home life with emergency kits and contingency plans. Knowing that homes and families are cared for will allow employees to focus their efforts on business resilience during a crisis.
All businesses rely on suppliers and vendors to function. When onboarding a vendor, their emergency response plan and business continuity plan should be known, so that their ability to provide services during a storm is clear. Anticipating required supplies or utilities during severe weather will help both parties in their planning.
Originally published in Houston Business Journal.