Retail owners should have an evacuation plan intact in advance of the summer storm season.
By Scott Crennan
The summer storm season is upon us and we have seen some intense rain and flooding already. NOAA just announced that “this year’s hurricane season which runs from June 1-November 30, will have 6-11 named storms, of which 3-6 could become full blown named hurricanes, including 0-2 major hurricanes.” They continued to state that the 2015 hurricane season will be below normal, but this does not mean that coastal areas are in the clear, as even the smallest of storm patterns can mean big flooding.
Is Your Retail Business At Risk?
Hurricane season is a stressful and potentially frightening time for retail owners. The key to knowing if you are in a risky situation is identifying whether you are located within a hurricane threat zone. Hurricane threat zones are divided into two categories: evacuation and contingency. If your retail store is located near the coastal area, then you are in an evacuation zone. If your retail store is located inland, then you are classified as being in a contingency zone. Retail businesses located within these zones should have a hurricane plan in place, so that if a storm does threaten, a quick evacuation can happen.
Regardless of whether the store is located in a classified zone, it is also critical to know the elevation of your store. This information can be found within your property site plans. If your retail store is in a flood zone, you should have a plan to evacuate it.
What to Do Before You Evacuate Your Retail Store
All retail owners should have an evacuation plan intact. It is your responsibility to protect facilities and employees. It is important to take these appropriate steps needed in order to secure your store.
• Start by updating your employee phone numbers. This way you can contact them in case of an emergency.
• Remove essential business records, and back up computer records onto a disc.
• Move your equipment and furnishings away from windows. If unable to move, cover with heavy duty plastic sheeting.
• Secure items outside that are loose and could be blown around.
• Obtain battery-operated radios, flashlights and extra batteries.
• Make sure to have plywood 5/8 inches thick to board up windows and doors.
• Have an emergency generator for backup power.
• Waterproof tape to hold down windows.
• Place sandbags around areas where water could seep in and flood your store.
• Have bottled water and non-perishable foods.
• Have a first-aid kit.
Steps To Take if an Evacuation is Recommended
The National Weather Service will issue a hurricane warning when a hurricane has been predicted to touch land within 24 hours. Retail stores located in evacuation zones should evacuate immediately. For retail stores located in contingency zones, officials will recommend you to evacuate if the hurricane is a category three or higher. Before you evacuate your store, make sure to refer back to your preparation plan to protect your business.
During an evacuation, it is important to stay aware of traffic patterns. Some routes and main roads will be closed due to floods and strong winds. If a hurricane warning is issued and evacuation in your area is announced, close your business immediately.
Steps To Take if Evacuation is Not Recommended
If your county officials do not recommend an evacuation, this does not mean that your store is in the clear, as strong winds and heavy rains are still a possibility. In this situation, you should continue to take protective measures using your evacuation plan checklist.
After the Hurricane
If it was recommended that you evacuate your facility, you may have trouble re-entering your store right away. Roads may be flooded or closed due to debris from the storm. If you see that the building is damaged, do not enter. When you are able to re-enter, make sure to wear closed toe shoes as this will protect your feet if there is any broken glass. Before entering, be aware that animals such as snakes may be in your building looking for higher land. While outside the building, look for structural damage. Stay away from damaged electrical power lines and do not use open flames anywhere on the property. While inside, make sure all outlets are dry before restoring power. Do not consume sink water until you are notified that it is free of contamination. After you have inspected the property, take pictures and videos to send to your insurance company.
NOAA’s 2015 Hurricane Prediction
According to the NOAA, “The main factor expected to suppress the hurricane season this year is El Niño, which is already affecting wind and pressure patterns, and is forecast to last through the hurricane season,” says Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. The NOAA predicts that El Niño has the possibility to intensify as the summer progresses.
After a Disaster
If you don’t have a professional disaster recovery service plan or a certified company that handles your plan, consider this six-step process when dealing with a large-scale disaster vendor:
A good certified disaster recovery specialist will be onsite immediately to analyze the situation and determine the best plan for restoration.
Understanding and coordinating with insurance adjusters on all approved services. Provide detailed invoicing and backup documentation to meet insurance industry standards for smooth and prompt processing of claims is a big part of every disaster recovery issue.
Make sure inspectors that test air quality and conduct surface sampling for mold and bacteria contamination are certified. They need to be able to accurately and safely identify if there are any areas of secondary remediation required.
Once again, make sure that remediation technicians that handle the safe removal of contaminants from your store are certified to provide a safe environment for reconstruction.
A series of certified and proven tests should be conducted to ensure that the cleanup process eliminated the contaminated materials.
A retail construction team should be assigned to work with you to follow the specifications provided by your corporate office to ensure that their work meets your brand’s standards and bringing your store back to the pre-loss condition as quickly as possible.
If you would like to learn more about hurricane preparedness plans or disaster recovery services, contact a certified professional with nationwide experience today. Hurricane season should not be taken lightly. This is a serious time, and preparation plans should be given extensive thought. Do not be caught off guard this season; it’s not too late to set a solid preparedness plan in place. RFB
— Scott Crennan is chief executive officer of Disaster Recovery Services, An SMI Company. Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.