Rapid Response

How to maintain a healthy landscape after disasters and inclement weather.

As extreme weather has become commonplace in many regions across the country, having a disaster recovery plan to follow in case of emergency is imperative for property owners and managers. Disaster awareness is essential for the safety of tenants and shoppers, in addition to retail properties themselves. It is crucial for owners and managers to know how to identify potential hazards that exist on their properties’ grounds and to have in place a formulated direct response strategy to establish a plan of action for every situation. This will allow for a structured plan to restore a property to stable conditions and to prevent damages, injuries and closures.

In the event of a disaster, proper awareness and planning will help speed the recovery and lessen the extent of long term damage to a retail property. Preventative measures, including identifying landscape elements susceptible to damage, can be key for a property’s storm readiness. Additionally, noting and monitoring vulnerable features such as trees, branches, shrubs and power lines, can help to map out more dangerous areas of a property. Awareness of areas that are more susceptible to damage can help to ensure that more care is taken in the upkeep of such features. Each of these tactics is a vital part of landscape disaster preparedness.

hurricaneEqually important is ensuring property grading is sufficient to drain water accumulation. In the event of severe rainfall or excessive melting snow, flooding can wreak havoc on a property. Having a property professionally assessed for water drainage ability and, if need be, modifying property grading to ensure drainage capabilities is not optional, but necessary. This can save a property from limitless damage that would not only cost a significant amount of money to repair, but could keep the property closed for any length of time after the event. Unexpected business closures can result in considerable loss of revenue, patronage and employees.

Unfortunately, preventative measures can only go so far, which means having a clearly defined plan for rapid response and recovery after severe weather occurs is a necessity. Detailing a plan of action to be utilized in the event of a disaster is imperative for the quick recovery of stable conditions on a property. Strategies for proper recovery after extreme weather can be designed specifically for individual properties. Standard disaster recovery plan items can include removal of debris, cutting and removing damaged tree branches, and snow and ice management.

Decisions about immediate actions that can — or should — be taken after inclement weather strikes are difficult to make in times of crisis. A prewritten, established plan will allow for a controlled checklist of tasks and actions to be taken, and in the event of a property manager not being on-site, can be enacted by anyone. A plan can also alleviate the stress of making important and time-sensitive decisions in the first few hours or days after a disaster has struck.

Extreme and unpredictable weather is a very real factor that needs to be addressed in all commercial and private landscapes. To ensure the safety of property and people, preventative measures cannot be overlooked and a properly prepared landscape will help save owners and managers from the potential hassles brought by inclement weather. A program of steps to be taken in the event of severe weather relieves stress and aids in returning to stable conditions swiftly and methodically. Landscape professionals are prepared to help in assessing the potential damages and areas needing extra care. They can also provide tips for managing a property efficiently and effectively, including creating a plan for swift disaster recovery.

— Ken Hutcheson is president of U.S. Lawns, a commercial landscape company with approximately 255 franchise locations nationwide. Hutcheson may be reached at KHutcheson@uslawns.com.

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