It's tornado season in the U.S., when businesses are vulnerable to significant property damage and losses. This article will provide tips to protect your business and employees from these unpredictable severe weather events.
Springtime brings tornado season, the three months (April, May and June) where the U.S. sees the most active and dangerous tornado strikes. How bad is this year's tornado season expected to be? So far, 2018 has seen about half as many tornado reports as anticipated — but meteorologists caution that it's dangerous to make tornado season predictions because all it takes are one or two storms to change everything.
Tornados tend to strike quickly and with little warning, leaving little room for last-minute business prep. They can even appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms in the funnel. By this time last year, economic losses from tornados and other severe storms were already in the billions.
Tornado preparation comes down to having a plan for your business, your employees, and your property.
How to Prepare your Business for a Tornado
Businesses in regions vulnerable to tornadoes should prepare a crisis emergency plan detailing tactics to preserve life and property. Your business's emergency tornado planning should include information on emergency supplies, shelter/evacuation plans, and business document back-up strategies.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) advises business to establish a secure location within the facility that conforms to ICC500 storm shelter criteria for employees to gather to wait out the storm. The space should be able to accommodate the entire workforce, as well as customers.
Practicing emergency drills will help ensure an orderly flow of people to the safe room in the event of a storm. Appoint one person to be in charge when a tornado strikes, and two other people to fill in just in case the person is not in the facility that day. Ensure your plans and routes account for all employee and customer accessibility needs.
Consider what emergency supplies should be kept in inventory, including a portable generator or backup power system, battery-operated portable lamps, battery-powered weather radios to listen for emergency updates, evacuation signage, and a first aid kit.
Review emergency plans with your employees every spring to ensure tornado preparation is top of mind.
What to Do During a Tornado
Know the difference between a tornado warning issued by the local National Weather Service, which indicates a tornado is imminent, and a tornado watch, which means that that the potential exists for the development of a tornado.
On average, tornado warnings are issued 13 minutes prior to the event, hence the need to prepare to respond to the disaster when the earlier tornado watch is issued. Stay tuned into the local weather station to receive continuous updates.
As soon as it is clear the storm will strike the area, close all windows and follow your emergency plan for evacuation or safe sheltering. If time permits, secure all cabinets and use tarps and tiedowns to secure valuable equipment like computers.
If a safe space has not been set aside, occupants should be informed to seek out small, windowless room on the lowest levels of building. Bathrooms, interior halls, and closets are good choices.
There is always the chance of injury, even with the best of plans. FEMA recommends assigning at least two people on the staff to receive basic training in first aid. Businesses are further advised to download a mobile app from the American Red Cross providing emergency first aid advice. If someone is injured, call 911.
Ensuring Business Continuity after a Tornado
Contact the insurance company providing property and equipment damage coverage. Many property insurance policies also absorb lost income caused by a disaster, when a business must close for a period of time. But, unfortunately, FEMA notes that insurance does not cover all costs and cannot replace customers that defect to the competition.
Establishing a business continuity plan will help your business recover from any property and income losses after a tornado. Your plan should include strategies for information technology (IT) recovery and continuity.
Learn more about business continuity planning after a disaster here.