Hurricanes can pose a serious threat to both your life and property. These natural disasters produce winds ranging from 74 to 200 miles per hour. A storm with that much power can cause catastrophic damage and severe flooding. Weather can be unpredictable, so it’s vital to have a hurricane safety plan in place for your business or facility. Here’s everything you need to know about hurricane preparedness:
Creating Your Hurricane Safety Plan
If you are on or near the east or gulf coasts of the U.S. it's important that you plan a safe evacuation route that will take you 20-50 miles inland. Contact your local emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter, and ask for the community’s emergency preparedness plan. In addition, take the time to discuss your plan with any family members, friends or coworkers so that everyone is on the same page if this natural disaster happens to strike.
Stock up on disaster supplies
Don’t wait until the storm hits to get all the products and supplies you need to stay safe. Start now. Here’s a list of basic emergency supplies to have on hand:
- Flashlights and extra batteries
- Portable battery-operated radio and extra batteries
- First aid kits
- Emergency food and water
- Non-electric can opener
- Local maps
- Essential medicines and supplies
Prep the building
No matter if it’s a big or small facility, making sure the property is well-equipped before the storm hits is essential. You can do so by bringing any items that are susceptible to strong winds inside, such as hanging signs, loose equipment or furniture, etc. Reduce the danger of flying glass by boarding the windows with fitted plywood. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking. Store merchandise and inventoried supplies as high as possible off the floor, especially goods that could be in short supply after the storm. Prevent severe roof damage by installing straps or additional clips to securely fasten the roof to the frame. Be sure to stay away from anything with glass during the storm.
Know the protocol
The National Weather Service forecasts, updates and directs the public during a national disaster via TV, radio, cell phones and computers. Your local authorities will also issue statements if need be. Be sure to stay in the loop, and follow whatever instructions are made to avoid danger. If an evacuation order is given, leave as soon as possible. Avoid flooded roads and watch for washed-out bridges. Secure your all the rooms. Unplug appliances and turn off electricity and the main water valve. If time permits, elevate furniture to protect it from flooding or move it to a higher floor. Take your pre-assembled emergency supplies and warm, protective clothing, cash and credit cards, rain boots, and copies of important papers, including bank accounts, insurance, and household and business inventory records.
Getting back to business post hurricane
After the storm is over, it’s time to assess the damage. Enter the building carefully and keep an eye out for anything that could be harmful and unsafe. Wear sturdy shoes when walking through debris, and use gloves when moving it out of the way. Be diligent with your search. Possible hazards in your facility may include:
- Natural gas: If you smell gas or hear a hissing or blowing sound, ventilate the area and leave immediately. Turn off the main gas valve from the outside, if you can, and call the gas company. Do not smoke or use oil, gas lanterns, candles or torches for lighting inside a damaged facility until you are sure there is no leaking gas or other flammable materials present.
- Sparks, broken or frayed wires: Check the electrical system unless you are wet, standing in water or unsure of your safety. If possible, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If the situation is unsafe, leave the building and call for help. Do not turn on the lights until you are sure they are safe to use. You may want to have an electrician inspect your wiring.
- Appliances: If appliances are wet, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. Then, unplug appliances and let them dry out. Have appliances checked by a service professional before using them again. Also, have the electrical system checked by a qualified electrician before turning the power back on.
- Water and sewage systems: If pipes are damaged, turn off the main water valve. Check with local authorities before using any water as the water could be contaminated. Pump out wells and have the water tested by authorities before drinking. Do not flush toilets until you know that sewage lines are intact.
Be sure to check all the spaces damage could be hiding. Open cabinets, but be alert for objects inside that may fall out. Clean up chemical spills and disinfect items that may have been contaminated by raw sewage, bacteria, or chemicals. Clean salvageable items and store them away from the damage.
Safety still matters
Keep in mind that recovering from a disaster is usually a gradual process. Above anything else, safety is still a primary issue, as is the mental and physical wellbeing of your employees. If assistance is available, knowing how to access it makes the process faster and less stressful. Your first concern after a disaster is your co-worker’s health and safety. You need to consider possible safety issues and monitor employee health and well-being.
However, don’t forget to monitor your own health. Be aware of exhaustion. Don’t try to do too much at once. Set priorities and pace yourself. Get enough rest. Here are some general tips to keep in mind:
- Drink plenty of clean water
- Eat well
- Wear sturdy work boots and gloves
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and clean water often when working in and around debris
New safety issues
It’s important to be aware of new safety issues created by the disaster. Watch for washed out roads, contaminated buildings, contaminated water, gas leaks, broken glass, mold, damaged electrical wiring, and slippery floors. Inform local authorities about health and safety issues, including chemical spills, downed power lines, washed out roads, smoldering insulation and dead animals.
Creating a hurricane safety plan ahead of time can help you and your business make a comeback after a disaster.