When your area is issued a hurricane watch or warning, as a business
leader, you often only have a very small amount of time in which to act
quickly to protect your employees and your business. Because you do not
have long to evacuate your personnel or to protect your company, having
and executing a hurricane preparedness plan is imperative to safely
recovering from this type of crisis. However, there are numerous aspects
to keep in mind when creating, implementing and executing an emergency
notification plan in the event of a hurricane - all of which must be
considered in order to improve safety levels and communication.
Emergency Notification Plan: When to Act - Watches and Warnings
A hurricane watch is issued 48 hours ahead of the anticipated onset of
tropical storm force winds to alert the affected areas to begin
following their emergency procedures. A watch is typically issued when
the conditions are favorable for a hurricane; therefore, you will want
to move quickly to execute your hurricane preparedness plan, as the
winds will begin to gather strength within 48 hours, and it will be
harder to perform activities (e.g. covering windows, reinforcing
structures) if the environment becomes hazardous.
A hurricane warning is issued 36 hours ahead of the expected onset of
tropical storm force winds. Unlike a watch, a warning is issued because a
hurricane has already been spotted and will affect the relevant areas.
During this time, extreme caution must be taken, and it is imperative to
act immediately, whether this means evacuating personnel, initiating
emergency notifications, or following your hurricane preparedness plan.
Even if you are only in the surrounding areas of the storm, you should
still be prepared to execute your emergency notification plan, as you
may face strong winds, potential flooding (which can occur ahead of or
during the storm) and isolated tornadoes.
Why Do I Need a Hurricane Preparedness Plan?
As a business leader, you have a responsibility to protect your
employees and your company from disaster. Your employees look to you for
direction and need to know how to act in a crisis; having an extensive
emergency notification plan in place will help employees learn who to
contact, where to go and what to do in the event of a disaster.
Additionally, hurricane preparedness plans will help you plan for
contingencies that you otherwise may not be able to cope with, including
helping employees evacuate the area safely, even in the event of
flooding of roads or of the building itself; loss of utilities and water
for protracted periods of time; loss of communication in the event that
cell phone towers go down due to strong winds; and loss of
transportation routes. Your business will also be impacted by this
disaster, including loss of inventory; loss of customers, as they may
have migrated away from your company for extended periods of time during
the crisis; loss of communication with suppliers, as they may not be
able to get through due to flooding or they may be suffering damages of
their own; loss of data; loss of equipment; a damaged facility and more.
The financial damages caused by hurricanes can be extensive. In 2011,
the estimated cost of damages caused by Hurricane Irene was $7 billion
to $10 billion. Unfortunately, insurance covered approximately less than
40 percent of the losses due to extensive flooding, as flood insurance
is not generally covered under regular insurance plans.
Without a strong hurricane preparedness plan in place, in the worst case
scenarios, your business could suffer irreparably and/or your employees
could suffer serious injuries or death. As a business leader, you are
responsible for creating an emergency notification plan to give your
business a structure to follow in the event of a crisis.
Creating an Emergency Preparedness Plan for Your Business
Your hurricane preparedness plan should be created based on the size of
your company - if you have a large company, then you have the human
resources already in place (e.g. facilities management or otherwise) to
handle the task of creating this plan; however, if you have a smaller
company, then you need to designate the appropriate personnel for your
crisis team to begin crafting your plans.
Your business requires a clear, concise, written emergency notification
plan that employees can follow in the event of a hurricane - preferably
before hurricane season begins. Remember to include all contingencies
that must be accounted for, such as unexpected loss of communication,
flooding, or data loss. If you are a large company with small
subsidiaries in other areas, create a local hurricane preparedness plan
for that specific subsidiary, as each business will need to be treated
uniquely. For instance, a smaller division of your company may be
located in a coastal town, and they will need to act more quickly to
evacuate the town due to a high risk of flooding.
Practice Your Emergency Plans
You may have extensive hurricane preparedness plans in place; however,
they mean nothing without practice. Create your emergency notification
plan and then practice it - not once, but several times, so that it
becomes second nature for employees to learn how to respond and use a
notification system, and it becomes easier to evacuate the building or
to take the steps necessary to secure data. In the event of a
hurricane, you may have several days of warning before the disaster
strikes, so it's up to you, as a business leader, to take immediate
Testing your hurricane preparedness plans can be challenging
logistically, but there are many ways to practice your strategies. You
can perform a tabletop drill (there are companies, including Preparis,
that provide strategic crisis management drills) of your emergency
notification plan with your crisis team, which will allow members to
perform virtual exercises of decisions you may have to make during a
hurricane. This will allow you to see if your plans and protocols need
improvement, and will enable you to practice the procedures that are
imperative to company safety.
Additionally, it is very important to have access to your hurricane
preparedness plans at any time. Many companies create these plans and
leave them in binders at the office, which are ultimately useless during
the event of an evacuation or when personnel are located elsewhere. Try
to put your emergency notification plan online or anywhere that can be
accessed through a document management system, or, more importantly, a
mobile device, as you may have to evacuate from home and you'll need to
follow the steps of the plan without a computer nearby. Being able to
access your hurricane contingency plans, data and emergency contact
lists is very important.
Employee Notification Systems
Every business should have an emergency notification system with which
to alert employees in the event of a disaster, through multiple channels
if necessary, such as email, voice, text and more. You should always
test this emergency notification system at least twice a year, with
every branch of your office. It's also important to ensure that
employees can not only receive notifications, but that they can respond
to them, because when a hurricane is spotted, employers do not have time
to deal with a malfunctioning, overly-complicated messaging system.
Act Quickly - Before Hurricane Season
Now is the time to create hurricane preparedness plans to prepare for
financial and physical losses, flooding, damages due to wind and more.
In addition to an emergency notification plan, it is also important to
implement a recovery plan, because it will take time to recover from
losses due to damaged/lost inventory, employees or consumers who have
migrated to safer places and who may not be able to return quickly, or
suppliers who are unable to fill your requests. However, market studies
have shown that in the second year after a hurricane occurs, you may be
able to sell more of your commodity, as consumers who are rebuilding or
replacing stock are now able to do so; therefore, this type of disaster
may sometimes increase sales. No matter what happens, you should have a
recovery plan for your business, as you will need to make plans for
potential repairs, utilities, data loss or labor supply. With this plan
in place, you will begin to see an increase in your markets over time
and you will begin to recover.
Act quickly and create a hurricane preparedness plan for your business
before a disaster occurs - you cannot prevent a hurricane, but you can
ensure that your employees and your business are as safe as possible in
the event of a crisis.
About the Author
As the Marketing and Sales Operations Director at Preparis, Inc., Nate Kristy oversees marketing efforts for the industry's first comprehensive emergency preparedness
platform, designed to help companies build a capable crisis team and
improve communication in the event of a crisis. Prior to working with
Preparis, Inc., Kristy was with Cox Media Group and Orkin Pest Control. A
graduate of Emory University and Georgia State University, Kristy has
over fifteen years of experience in strategic B2B and B2C marketing. For
more information on Preparis, Inc., please call (877) 544-5845 or visit