Getting ready for a hurricane

The Hurricane and Tropical Storm Survival Guide

Depending on your business type and location, the risk attached to a tropical storm or hurricane can vary. To help prepare you, here’s a quick disaster survival reference guide to ensure your business can weather any storm.

Hurricanes and tropical storms wreak destruction through a combination of high winds and heavy rain. They may also be accompanied by surging tides that flood that affected an area with salt water.

Potential impact:

Hurricanes and tropical storms impact business in three primary ways:

Direct damage to operating facility due to high winds, flooding, and objects such as tree limbs and debris that become high-speed projectiles capable of smashing through windows, roofs and other structural elements.

Extended power outages, road closures, and other lasting damages can put a business facility out of commission for a week or more.

Regional impact can affect customers, suppliers, and business partners—as well as the homes of employees.

Risk factors:

About a dozen named storms occur along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts each year. Major disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, underscore the potential damage that can result when such events strike population centers. Climate change may be increasing both the frequency and intensity of these events

Warning Times:

Businesses usually have significant advance warning of an approaching storm. However, because storm paths are notoriously difficult to predict, these warnings can often be false alarms. Some businesses, therefore, fail to respond to storm warnings due to the “Cry Wolf” syndrome.

Technology Continuity:

Hurricanes and tropical storms can put a data center out of commission for a day, a week, or permanently. All businesses, especially those operating in hurricane-prone areas, should be prepared for anything. Preparation should thus include:

Continuous off-site backup of data, applications, and server images.

The ability to restore IT operations in the cloud and/or at a site sufficiently further inland from the coast to be unaffected by the storm. This restoration may require evacuation of key IT personnel out of the storm so that they can continue to work remotely from their laptops even if the area’s mobile data services are interrupted.

Website posting that alerts customers and partners about storm preparations—along with frequent post-storm updates that allow the visitor to track the progress of any necessary recovery.

Personnel Continuity:

Major storms can affect entire regions for an extended period of time. Business continuity plans should include:

Availability of a sufficiently distant inland facility—along with any temporary housing necessary for key employees whose homes are also in the path of the storm.

Internal communications for keeping employees updated on resource availability, recovery status, etc.

Any necessary third-party contracting for shipping/receiving, mail processing, duplicating, etc.

Process Continuity:

In the event of a regional disaster, in addition to making sure their own operations continue uninterrupted, businesses should be prepared to help their nearby customers and partners get through the crisis. Planning should thus include:

Communications in advance with local/regional customers and suppliers who may also be impacted by the storm. This communication should include alternative mobile contact numbers.

Pre-determined policies regarding order turnaround times, invoice processing, scheduled service visits, and other activities likely to be affected by the storm.

Direct servicing of customers by supply-chain partners, where appropriate and feasible.

For more information download our free E-Book on Preparing for disaster.

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