Hurricane Season: Preparation & Planning are Necessities for Business Resilience

Hurricane Season: Preparation & Planning are Necessities for Business Resilience

By Monique McQueen, Vice President of Property Claims at QBE North America 

Hurricane experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have forecasted a range of 12 to 17 total named storms for the 2023 hurricane season, of which 5 to 9 could become hurricanes, with the potential for 1 to 4 category 3 (winds 111 to 130 mph) or higher. For business owners, advance planning and preparation can help guard against the havoc hurricanes can wreak. They can even mean the difference in a business’s livelihood should disaster strike.

The severe weather the U.S. has experienced over the last several years, including hurricanes Irma, Harvey, Sandy, Ida, Ian and more, highlights just how devastating the aftermath can be to a community, and the risk can extend to areas well beyond the coastal locations traditionally considered target zones. 

As a best practice, companies should have a disaster response and business continuity plan that is regularly updated and shared with key staff. This plan can make a difference in keeping employees and property safe and improving the business’ ability to bounce back if catastrophe strikes. 

Key areas for business owners to focus on throughout hurricane season include:

  • People. Employee safety is the top concern. Businesses should have formalized procedures for communicating with and protecting all workers during both response and restoration periods. Stock up on and store essential items ahead of time such as PPE, disinfectants, water, food items, batteries, first aid kits, and medications.

  • Property. Evaluate each piece of rooftop equipment to determine the current condition and adequacy of rooftop securement. Make sure employees know how to turn off water, gas, and other utilities when necessary, and conduct proper facilities training so multiple people can be called on in a crisis, if needed, especially those located near the business. Use a storage facility for equipment and materials to help with emergency repairs such as chainsaws, pumps, fuel for generators, and plywood. Importantly, check that insurance coverage amounts reflect current costs for rebuilding and replacing property. 

  • Records. Gather contact information for external parties that are crucial to business operations, such as bankers, lawyers, accountants, and suppliers. Ensure contracts with customers and suppliers are up to date and include appropriate provisions for risk transfer and proof of insurance. Save this information in an alternate and accessible off-site location.

  • Inventory. Have an up-to-date inventory of what is in the company’s offices and facilities, including products and assets, as well as current financials. Keep in mind physical records can easily get destroyed so have a backup elsewhere.

  • Power. Have a plan in place if there is a loss in power. Make sure generators are on hand and employees know how to use them safely. Companies should be prepared for longer-than-usual power outages.

Severe weather continues to become more unpredictable, making it that much more important for business owners to check in with their broker or insurer regularly to understand their coverages and note any changes to operations, property, staffing or the working environment. This will help make sure a business is protected as it evolves and facilitate a smooth claims process during turbulent times.