The Atlantic Hurricane Season began June 1st. Is your company prepared?
According to meteorologists, El Niño played a significant role in suppressing the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season. But with El Niño weakening, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast suggests an “average” hurricane season for 2016. However, with the additional uncertainty a developing La Niña during peak months, there is greater chance that a tropical system could impact U.S. businesses compared to the previous three years. Companies should prioritize their efforts to actively review and update their hurricane and business continuity plans, and mitigate potential impacts from a tropical cyclone.
Despite disastrous historical effects on inland locations, hurricanes are typically thought of as a coastal problem. Hurricanes and their lingering destructive winds, tropical flooding rains, and off-shoot tornadoes, can impact businesses far from the initial landfall point. Consequently, emergency and HSE managers must ensure that this season’s hurricane and business continuity plans are up-to-date, effective, and exercised.
Preparation and pre-planning is the key to success of initiating response plans. Be wary of assigning checklists by hurricane category or targeted landfall area as a storm's’ intensity and direction can rapidly fluctuate. Below are key hurricane planning concepts to consider:
- Assign and train personnel and departments to complete specific pre and post hurricane responsibilities. Many companies break down checklists by time frame; 5 days prior to landfall, 96-72 hours until landfall, 48 hours until landfall, 24 hours until landfall, 12 hours until landfall, etc
- Highlight evacuation routes
- Identify the minimum necessary personnel to remain at the facility during the storm, if if deemed safe to do so
- Identify redeployment team(s) responsible to secure the site after a storm
- Identify needs for conducting necessary business processes off-site, as well as processes for data backup and redundancy
- Review alternate location options
- If applicable, identify and make arrangements for alternate or off-site storage of selected equipment (computers, moving equipment/inventory from potential flood areas)
- Coordinate site specific plans with local and county emergency management agencies’ hurricane plans
- Inspect the site for potential mitigation measures and initiate countermeasures to minimize damage. If lumber is necessary, pre-cut wood to sizer, mark each panel/piece to identify location. If using storm shutters, identify proper installation procedures and functionality prior to storm
- Identify, inspect, and/or purchase materials required to support hurricane preparedness such as generators, battery-operated radios, flashlights, lighting, ice, and additional batteries
- Update employee and contractor contacts
- Identify primary and alternate communication methods and procedures
- Contract post incident suppliers/contractors to supply chain interruption.
A “bare bones” evaluation should identify the minimum criteria necessary to keep a business in operation. Subsequent continuity plans should include procedures for the prevention of loss or restoration of operations. Necessary resources for business continuity may include:
- Alternate workplace location(s)
- Necessary equipment
- Critical software
- Client records
- Off-site storage
- Key vendors lists
- Inventory and supplier requirements
- Notification procedures for key stakeholders
- Predefined personnel roles and responsibilities with current and alternate contact information
- Business Continuity Team notification and activation procedures
- Staff relocation requirements, including name, department, title, function code, home address, type of PC (PC or Laptop), number of adults and children in immediate family, pets /other, relocation priority, recovery location or facility, relocation seat number/room assignment, alternate employees, and special needs
Development and maintenance of Hurricane and Business Continuity Plans may be constrained by resources, profit margins, or alternative goals. However, with the potential increase in the forecasted number of storms and prevalence of natural disasters, companies must prioritize preparedness and planning in order minimize potentially damaging losses to critical operations and processes.