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Batten Down Your Business Hatches: Hurricane Season Expected to Be Bad


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting an "above average" hurricane season this year, which begins June 1 and runs through Nov. 30. National Hurricane Preparedness Week starts this Sunday, so insurers say now is a good time to review how well-prepared your business is to weather a hurricane.

NOAA is predicting 12 to 18 “named” storms with winds of 39 mph or higher, of which as many as 10 could become hurricanes with winds of 74 mph or higher, including three to six “major hurricanes” with winds of at least 111 mph.

“The United States was fortunate last year. Winds steered most of the season’s tropical storms and all hurricanes away from our coastlines,” Jane Lubchenco, NOAA’s administrator, said in a statement. “However, we can’t count on luck to get us through this season. We need to be prepared, especially with this above-normal outlook.”

Disaster preparedness can be a particularly daunting task for a small business with limited resources and no staff dedicated to the task. But Katrina showed that natural disasters don't discriminate in their destructiveness between the prepared and the procrastinators. Mayhem, it seems, is an equal-opportunity visitor.

When faced with potential natural disasters such as hurricanes, it's essential that small businesses prepare their employees to respond, William Hughes, director of consulting services at SunGard Availability Services, a company that specializes in business continuity and disaster recovery, told BusinessNewsDaily.

Provide coaching to your staff regarding the importance of having emergency “go bags” (including water, food, clothing, medication, lighting and more), pre-planned locations for a family to meet in the event of an evacuation, and different types of communication methods in case wired and wireless voice communications are interrupted.

If your company engages customers in transactional exchanges, review your customer management plan. And review the disaster preparedness and recovery plans of vendors that are critical to you operation.  They need to be as prepared as you are.

"Whether looking at business or home life, companies need to remember the lessons from events like Hurricane Katrina and plan for an incident where the scope was previously unimaginable," Hughes said. "Organizations should not take anything for granted, make tough decisions about the assumptions their responses are built upon, and prepare for contingencies with a layered defense in order to elevate their level of readiness.”

“The inability of employees to be available can have a significant impact on an SMB’s ability to recover and persevere," he said.  "Preparing your business for a disaster means not only looking at work space, supplies and computer systems, but also having plans to protect and support your employees. Companies need to extend preparedness not just to employees' personal well-being, but preparing and protecting their homes and families. Employees can then feel safe in knowing those worries are being addressed and can in turn help a business with its challenges.”

SunGard has a special website devoted to hurricane preparedness for businesses. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also offers tips at http://www.ready.gov. And, for more information on the upcoming hurricane season, visit the National Hurricane Center’s website at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov.

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.

Ned Smith

Ned was senior writer at Sweeney Vesty, an international consulting firm, and was Vice President of communications for iQuest Analytics. Before that, he has been a web editor and managed the Internet and intranet sites for Citizens Communications. He began his journalism career as a police reporter with the Roanoke (Va.) Times, and was managing editor of American Way magazine and senior editor of Us. He was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and has a masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.