HR Management & Compliance

It’s Hurricane Season Already: Are You Ready?

Every year, many employers across the country face the question: “What do we do when a hurricane is upon us?” The real question should be whether the company has a plan in place, communicated to employees, to keep workers and their families safe and protect the business and its assets as much as possible. Read on for some suggestions.

Source: 3DSculptor / iStock / Getty

Learn Weather Terms

Everyone should understand the difference between a tropical depression, a tropical storm, and a hurricane. You also should be aware that high winds accompanying these weather events can spin off tornadoes, localized flooding, and, for those along the coast, storm surges. Understanding the terms can help you as the employer and your employees to prepare for what to do. One key is to listen to your local government officials. If you’re directed to leave an area, it’s best to heed the warnings.

Hurricanes are based on a scale from Category 1 (least dangerous) to Category 5 (most dangerous). The higher the category, the greater the wind speed.  Each category can create havoc and damage, however, and none should be taken lightly. At any level, the wind and precipitation can damage businesses and homes, cause branches or trees to snap, and down power lines. Power outages are likely to occur, which can last for weeks, and the downed power lines can be another danger. Be smart and watchful, especially to ensure that children are kept at a safe distance.

7 Items to Include in Your Planning

Here are seven things employers and individuals should consider before, during, and after the storms move in:

Take inventory of your assets and belongings. You’ll be glad you did if you’re hit with any kind of catastrophic event (hurricane, fire, robbery, etc.). As a rule, your business should have off-site and secure backups for your electronic systems and data. That requires, at a minimum, daily backups and storage off-site.

Create or update your emergency preparedness plan, and spell out any special needs. Businesses such as nursing homes or inpatient medical facilities should know where they will need to move their residents or patients, which includes how those individuals will be transported. Individuals should make certain all necessary medications are accessible in the event you need to vacate your residence. If you own pets, make certain you include them in your emergency planning.

Zero in on reliable emergency information systems. Know which radio, television, and/or other emergency notification systems will be available in your area. You may have a preferred means to secure information, but whatever you decide, know where and how to keep informed about the weather developments.

Know how to get out. Be familiar with the evacuation routes in your area.

Figure out where you’re going. Know where the emergency shelters are located.

Check your insurance. Know what coverages you have and don’t have in case a weather event occurs. Have your agents’ contact information available so you can reach  them quickly after the storm hits.

Start cleaning up. As quickly as possible after the event and as soon as law enforcement gives you the green light, secure your property and make whatever temporary fixes you can to prevent further damage to your business or home.

Be Prepared

The bottom line is to be prepared. Plan for the worst, and your business and employees should get through hurricane season in as good a shape as possible. With the season typically firing up between late August and early October, now is the time to pull out and update your emergency preparedness plan and talk with employees. Don’t wait until it is too late. For more information, the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, www.scemd.org, has published a user-friendly guide that can assist you during hurricane season.

Richard J. Morgan, an editor of South Carolina Employment Law Letter, may be reached at rmorgan@mcnair.net.