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Severe Weather Happens! Planning TIPS for Company Emergency Response Plans

Posted on Thu, May 21, 2015

Despite best efforts of meteorologists, weather can still be unpredictable. Volatile spring weather with the potential for tornadoes, floods, and severe thunderstorms can affect some locations, while higher probabilities of drought-induced wildfires can affect others. Fortunately, historical seasonal data and likelihood levels of potential weather enables companies with multiple facilities in various locations to establish scenario-specific procedural responses and natural disaster preparedness in the event the unpredicted occurs.

Methodically formatted, web-based emergency plans injected with site-specific details can serve as a standard company model for the entire enterprise. Employees familiar with company preparedness efforts and trained in site-specific response processes are more likely to implement best practices in the event a weather phenomenon occurs. Despite the dynamic nature of weather-related incidents, responders with scenario-specific training will better comprehend their roles and responsibilities, and contend with emergency situations.

Below are a sample of natural disaster preparedness and emergency management planning concepts that companies can initiate for a variety of seasonal weather challenges.

  1. Seconds count! Conduct tornado drills to ensure employees can locate and mobilize to designated shelter location(s).
  2. Be sure plans are communicated and revised as necessary.
  3. Examine architecture and facility construction to identify the safest location for sheltering. Large, open-spanning areas (such as a grand entryways, auditoriums, or gymnasiums) are not adequate shelters.
  4. Identify product release dangers and shutdown procedures.
  5. Be aware of the site-specific dangers posed by wind from equipment and buildings.
  6. Identify data backup and recovery procedures.
  7. Establish news and weather monitoring methods (Be sure to have battery backup available).
  8. Identify and procure potential alternate location options and necessities for conducting critical business processes off-site.
  9. Develop an emergency communication plan to relay specific expectations and responsibilities during the aftermath.
  10. Update employee contact lists with alternate contact information.


  1. Assess the flood risk potential in your area. Be aware of stream, ditches, drainage areas, and other low-lying areas on the property.
  2. Map facility and identify multiple access and egress routes.
  3. Familiarize staff with the evacuation plan and alternate routes.
  4. Ensure important documents and server(s) are not stored in basement or ground level, and review backup procedures.
  5. Update employee contact lists with alternate contact information in the event evacuation is necessary.
  6. If evacuation is necessary, assign trained personnel to secure the premises and equipment (such as sandbagging and/or extending regulator vents and relief stacks above the level of anticipated flooding, as appropriate.).
  7. Perform continuous monitoring of the flood through various media outlets and weather tracking.
  8. Unplug all electrical devices.
  9. If flooding is probable, discuss shutting off high voltage power and natural gas lines with energy providers.
  10. Maintain hazards awareness regarding, but not limited to:
    • Structural damage
    • Downed power lines
    • Leaking natural gas, water, and sewer lines
    • Poisonous snakes and other wildlife sheltering in structures, vehicles, and furniture
    • Direct contact with flood water, mud, and animal carcasses
  11. Deploy personnel so that they will be in position to take emergency actions, such as shutdown, isolation, or containment in the event of an emergency.
  12. Identify, contract, and communicate with water damage specialist(s).
  13. Ensure clean-up equipment is available, adequate, and ample. If cleanup will be done by employees, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) may be required. OSHA requires Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for cleanup operations if water source is contaminated with sewage, chemicals, or other biological pollutants.
  14. Consider obtaining portable pumps and hoses from local suppliers.
  15. If applicable, determine if flooding can expose or undermine pipelines as a result of erosion or scouring.
  16. If applicable, coordinate with emergency and spill responders on pipeline location(s) and condition, and provide maps and other relevant information to them.
  17. If applicable, advise the State Pipeline Safety Office (for intrastate lines), or PHMSA's Regional Pipeline Safety Office (interstate lines) prior to returning pipelines to service, on increasing the operating pressure, or otherwise changing the operating status of the line.
  18. Conduct a post-incident review and identify mitigation opportunities to prevent future flooding impacts.


  1. Cut back brush or vegetation that may be impeding on structures or property.
  2. Remove dead wood and combustible litter from the site.
  3. If possible, enclose the underside of eaves and decking with fire-resistant materials to keep out flying embers.
  4. Cover exterior vents with fire retardant mesh screens to prevent embers from entering building.
  5. Develop, review, and share fire pre-plans with local fire departments
  6. Ensure employees are trained in fire prevention, evacuation procedures, and fire safety measures.
  7. Identify on-site and external equipment resources, procuring contracts if necessary (fire trucks, Backhoe/Front end loader for cutting fire breaks).
  8. Test functionality of sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers.
  9. Evaluate and maintain irrigation system
  10. If applicable, establish response team and train as necessary
  11. If a wildfire is present in the area, pay attention to local air quality reports to determine health impacts to employees. Even small amounts of smoke and toxic gases can make employees drowsy, disoriented, and short of breath.

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