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How to Be Last to Close & First to Open this Hurricane Season

The 2021 hurricane season is forecast to have above-normal levels of activity. Before the next big storm hits, businesses need to review and sharpen their emergency response plans. Often plans rely on the wrong triggers, such as proximity to a hurricane or the storm’s Saffir-Simpson Category (1-5). Relying on these factors could cause you to mismanage your response, leaving stores over- or under-prepared, as they do not consider the hurricane’s speed of movement, size, or potential storm surge.

Developing Your Timeline

When developing your response timeline, it’s important to define ‘trigger points,’ or specific actions that must be taken before a hurricane arrives. Use ‘objective guidance’ to ensure your locations are prepared no matter how the hurricane track may shift.

Instead of relying on a perfect forecast, you should assume that the hurricane might turn toward your location. Modify your plan based on calculated worse-case time of arrival (WCS) and probability of wind impact (PWI)— “72 hours before WCS of 39 mph winds with PWI 20%”—a clear trigger that allows you to take actions even if forecast is uncertain.

Most triggers for grocers allow for some flexibility with timing, as long as they are completed prior to the arrival of a storm. The most common triggers, along with our recommendations for timing prior to the arrival of 39+ mph winds, are:

  • Stock up on storm supplies (water, batteries, bread) well ahead of the public rush. (approx. 48+ hours ahead)
  • Secure store by boarding windows, installing storm shutters. (24 hours ahead)
  • Pre-place generator and fuel. (12 hours ahead)
  • Close the doors and send employees home before it’s unsafe to travel. (No later than a couple hours ahead)

The hardest of these to anticipate is the public’s response to the threat. Most people begin shopping for supplies 24-48 hours in advance.

Lastly, you should take into consideration how outside vendors or suppliers could impact your business. Talk with your suppliers about their hurricane plans, know when their services or deliveries may be interrupted, have a backup plan for each, and build this knowledge into your timeline.

Hurricane Timeline and Triggers

Learn more about ensuring your hurricane plan has the right timeline and triggers.

Planning for Recovery

Grocers are among the first services expected to be available following a storm. As soon as winds in the area are below 39 mph, these steps should be followed to ensure you can re-open quickly.

  • Conduct damage assessment.
  • Coordinate with supply trucks to restock.
  • Check-in with employees. Prior to the storm, employees should be informed how they can report their status (text, phone, website) and get information on returning to work safely.
  • Coordinate with neighboring stores to send employees to assist while local employees are actively recovering.

Don’t wait to take a good look at your current emergency response plan. You may need to meet with someone familiar with hurricanes, such as a professional weather service, to review the details of your plan. With the proper adjustments, your business can react in the right way at the right time when a hurricane is approaching and safely support your community during the storm.

Read on to see how to fully prepare for recovery after a hurricane.


This article was originally published in Today's Grocer, pg 6.