Hurricanes are one of the most commonly destructive natural disasters that can strike an area. They’re common in very warm, coastal regions, and involve a mix of storms, flooding, and heavy winds. Hurricane effects can be severe, resulting in forced evacuations, property damage, and loss of life.
When it comes to your business, a hurricane can lead to significant losses. Rebuilding, loss of business, and being short on staff are all things that can slow you down in the aftermath of such events. And it’s also your responsibility to make sure all your employees are safe during a hurricane.
Table of contents
3.1. Before the hurricane
3.2. During the hurricane
3.3. After the hurricane
What is a hurricane?
Hurricanes are a type of natural disaster caused by a combination of warm water and moist air. When warm air from the ocean’s surface rises faster than usual, it encounters cooler air and the water vapor condenses, forming storm clouds and rain. This creates a sort of feedback loop, where the cold air is warmed by the hot ocean air, rising and making room for more ocean air. As more and more air rises, the surrounding atmosphere gets hotter and winds circle fiercely around the center of the hurricane.
Hurricane causes vary from thunderstorms which drift into contact with converging winds to unstable air pockets to unexpected heat waves creating perfect hurricane conditions. But all hurricanes become stronger thanks to strong winds both near and above the surface. Then, high-pressure air accelerates wind speeds.
Hurricanes can move through three categories of severity, according to wind speed. These are
- Tropical depression: A tropical depression has wind speeds of under 38 miles (62 kilometers) per hour.
- Tropical storm: Tropical storm winds move between 39 to 73 miles (63 to 118 miles per hour).
- Hurricane: To be termed a hurricane, the storm must have winds moving at 74 miles (119 kilometers) per hour or more.
How can hurricanes affect your business?
Hurricanes are a threat to any businesses in their vicinity for a range of reasons. Physical damage, loss of assets, the health of employees, and other things are all areas a hurricane can impact. Some of the most common hurricane effects include:
- Property damage: Such a large weather event can do a lot of damage to your building or premises. Repairs and cleanup costs can be very high.
- Loss of clientele: When a hurricane hits, people often evacuation – and even if they don’t, they’ll be focused on repairing the damage the storm caused to their own property. That means you’ll likely face less business after a hurricane.
- Reputational damage: Poor business management or a callous approach to hurricane preparedness can worsen your reputation, and it’s something customers will remember after you reopen.
- Supply chain disruptions: An unexpected severe storm means delays in production, shipment, and in some cases loss of product. Depending which stage of your supply chain is impacted, the rest of the process could be stalled for some time.
- Power outages: Heavy winds and rainfall often knock down power lines and cause electrical outages. In addition to cutting power from thousands of homes, businesses like yours can lose power too.
All businesses are subject to these concerns, which is why any business management strategy should consider how to respond to a hurricane, but some industries are more affected than others. Agriculture, tourism, and manufacturing have been heavily disrupted by hurricanes in the past.
Agriculture is impacted by hurricanes because crops, crop fields, and infrastructure get damaged. And the food shortages caused by crop loss can last for quite a while, thanks to ruined soil and loss of irrigation. In fact, 2023 citrus yields in Florida were projected to be the lowest they were since the Great Depression, a result of damage from Hurricane Ian.
Weather events such as the massive storms and flooding make it harder to travel, and make locations affected by these natural disasters less desirable for visitors. Not only that, but among the properties damaged whenever there’s a hurricane are lots of hotels, hostels, and other hospitality businesses. The causes of hurricanes mean that they originate in and affect mainly warm, somewhat tropical areas, which are otherwise traditionally sight-after vacation spots.
One of the reasons manufacturing is hit so hard during a hurricane is that the manufacturing industry has a lot of moving parts involved. Production, delivery of raw materials, delivery of finished products, and the equipment required are all stalled by these storms. Delays in one area of the process lead to delays in others. And damage to equipment can halt production indefinitely, as well as be costly.
How can your business prepare for a hurricane?
With all the adverse hurricane effects in mind, it’s vital to understand how hurricane preparedness can help you avoid these effects. Knowing the precautions and hurricane safety tips to follow in the event of an emergency is invaluable. A hurricane response plan is generally split into three stages: before, during, and after the event.
Before the hurricane
In order to take measures before the storm hits, you’ll need to have access to weather data. The further ahead you become aware of developing hurricanes, the sooner you can set a business management strategy in motion. Tune into your local weather station or buy a warning radio so you’ll have real-time information.
To be well-prepared in the event of a hurricane:
- Establish facility shutdown procedures so you will be able to evacuate safely
- Collect employee contact information so you can stay in touch with your staff before and after the disaster
- Assemble a disaster kit of emergency supplies (food, water, etc.) for any employees who might remain on-site
- Secure your facilities, for example by putting storm shutters on your windows and reinforcing doors
- Protect equipment by moving it to places it is less likely to be damaged, and minimize perishable goods stored on-site
- Back up your finances and files, for example by digitizing them
During the hurricane
During a hurricane, you’ll apply all the business management decisions you made when preparing to protect your employees as best as possible. Direct employees who need it to the shelter areas that you have prepared, and make sure utilities are isolated. In addition to food, you should make sure to have tarps, roofing tape, tools, and other survival equipment that can be used to build a shelter.
Hazardous materials and valuable equipment should be removed or relocated, and you should evacuate as many employees as possible. Communicate with customers, suppliers, and others involved with your business to let them know how the storm is affecting your business. Your work during the hurricane’s arrival is to make sure your preparations were sufficient.
After the hurricane
Once the event is over, you’ll need to assess the damage and move forward with reopening your business. This is also the step where you will file insurance claims for help rebuilding, which is where hurricane insurance is invaluable.
While repairs are being made, make sure any exposed power lines or leaking chemicals are safely cordoned off to avoid any workplace accidents. Prioritize the items that need repair according to how damaged they are and how important they are to your business. Replenish any emergency supplies you used during the storm.
When it comes to dealing with your insurance, have everything documented. Document everything that was damaged and make sure to mention all the losses you incurred, from missed contracts to lost labor costs resulting from the hurricane. Work with your insurance provider to establish a timeline for reimbursements.
Communicating and enacting hurricane safety tips is easier with a digital checklist app like Lumiform. Using paperless, intuitive premade or customized templates, you can practice good business management by defining procedures, hurricane safety checklists, and digitizing key documents.