When is the right time to prepare for a hurricane? Ideally, it is well before your school or business is in the direct path of an approaching storm. With hurricane season already bearing down on the East Coast as of June 1, and expected to last at least through the end of November, if you haven’t already given this potential threat its due attention, the time to do so is now.

Fred C. Church recommends that you kick off your hurricane preparation process by reviewing your organization’s current crisis response plan with the members of your crisis management team. It’s important to specifically discuss whether your plan still adequately addresses these three key areas:

  • Keeping your people and your business, school, organization, facility, or plant safe and secure during a hurricane.
  • Communicating accurate information to all parties before, during, and after the storm.
  • Providing appropriate care to all parties in the aftermath of a disaster.

After you and your team have thoroughly reviewed your crisis response plan and made any necessary adjustments to it, it’s time to put it into practice. While these “rehearsals” may never fully prepare you or your people for the reality of an actual emergency, regularly practicing your plan usually does help:

  • Ensure everyone understands what to do and when to do it in a crisis.
  • Minimize the feelings of panic and anxiety that inevitably set in.
  • Quicken people’s reaction times, which is crucial in an emergency.
  • Uncover any gaps or issues with the plan that may not have been noticed when reviewing it on paper.

In addition, while not the primary goal of practicing hurricane emergency procedures with your people, this effort will show everyone in your organization how strongly committed you are to their safety.

Specific Tips for Safeguarding Your School or Business from a Severe Weather Event

The hope, of course, is that you and your team will be well prepared for a hurricane strike but never have to execute your crisis response plan in a real-life situation. Unfortunately, per the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), it sounds like we all should be hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.

For 2023, NOAA is predicting at least 12 to 17 total named storms, with winds of 39 mph or higher, in the Atlantic region. Of those named storms, NOAA is forecasting that five to nine could become hurricanes, with winds of 74 mph or higher, including one to four major hurricanes, with winds of 111 mph or higher.

If a severe storm is in the forecast for your area, you may want to use the following checklist of best practices to verify that the three priority areas of your school or business—your people, systems, and property—are well protected.

#1 Steps for protecting your people.

  • Confirm the availability of your crisis response team during the duration of the storm.
  • Review your communication strategy to connect with employees, families, and students or participants before, during, and after the storm.
  • Ensure everyone knows evacuation locations.
  • Establish an on-site support team to stay at your facility or school as needed.
    • Ensure you have plenty of food and water on hand.
    • Set up sleeping quarters.
    • Have employees bring a change of clothing and any critical medications.
    • Provide a first-aid kit.
    • Offer support to the family members of these employees during the storm, such as lodging, day care, pet care, transportation, etc.
  • Follow instructions from local emergency managers.

#2 Steps for protecting your systems.

  • Back up your data.
  • Make sure you charge cell phones, tablets, and laptops and have backup power sources available.
  • Ensure your recovery service vendor will not be affected by the storm.
  • Have a remote work/school plan in case your facility isn’t operational.
  • Implement a system for communicating with your employees, families, students or participants, customers, and suppliers, such as email, social media, phone, or text messaging.

#3 Steps for protecting your property.

  • Evaluate your buildings, equipment, and other assets for structural weaknesses.
  • Test generators and sump pumps to confirm their functionality.
  • Ensure fuel and other supplies are stocked.
  • Clear gutters, drains, and storm basins.
  • Secure or store portable equipment that could be damaged in the storm.
  • Remove signs, trash cans, flags or banners, and anything else that could become projectiles during high winds.
  • Move buses, vehicles, and equipment from flood-prone or low-lying areas.
  • Scan trees and shrubbery for splitting branches or vulnerabilities.
  • Consider preparing sandbags for buildings in low-lying areas.
  • Board up windows and doors using 5/8” exterior-grade or marine plywood.
  • Confirm availability of backup drinking water, food supplies, and portable toilets if needed post-storm.

Effective Hurricane Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Is Truly a Team Effort

If your business or school is struck by severe weather, you and your crisis response team will likely have your hands full. From checking that everyone in your organization is safe to assessing if any business or school property has been damaged, there can be a lot to juggle in the aftermath of a storm.

As a client of Fred C. Church, you can count on us to do everything in our power to help you get up and running again as quickly as possible. Your client executive and our dedicated in-house claims advocates will be there to support you if you need to file a claim. Together, they can aid you in managing the process with your insurance carrier, including providing assistance with the initial report, updating you on where your claim stands, and answering any questions you may have.

But when’s the best time to reach out to Fred C. Church for help? It’s actually before there’s even a hint of a storm in the forecast. That’s because with Fred C. Church as your insurance broker, you have access to risk management specialists who can support you in reviewing how prepared your school or business is to weather a storm and assist you in analyzing the effectiveness of your crisis response plan. For example, we can collaborate with you to develop a customized tabletop exercise that simulates a hurricane scenario and its consequences to help you identify potential problems, gaps, and vulnerabilities in your emergency procedures. Please contact us today if you would like to tap into our knowledge and experience.