13 named storms. 5 hurricanes. And two major hurricanes.
That’s what’s considered an average Hurricane season—and that’s what some are predicting we will experience this current hurricane season. Still others are anticipating a “near to slightly above normal” season, saying 12-14 storms are likely to form and hit (1, 2).
Forecasts may be used to set expectations for what’s deemed a season of “average” or “normal” storms, but that doesn’t mean the season will be any less deadly, dangerous, or hazardous—whether there are less than average, or more than average storms. Regardless, there will be damage and destruction.
In fact, just look at the destruction and damage that’s already been caused by Hurricane Dorian.
Being as prepared as possible is the smartest thing any business can do to protect its workers right now. Here are 8 steps, at minimum, you can take to protect your organization and your people if a major storm or hurricane hits your area.
1. Be sure your disaster site management plan includes hurricane preparedness
You can find a link here that’s a great resource to help you get started.
First and foremost, your business should have an actionable plan to be able to respond to a major storm or hurricane. A safety-first minded business will make safety management system a top priority and plan all possible strategies that can be implemented to assure the safety of workers while performing their jobs. The purpose of safety management is to prevent hazards and reduce potential harmful incidents that can occur in the workplace after a disaster. The strategies implemented can include safety prevention measures such as the use of personal protective equipment or the establishment of health and safety policies.
This plan will keep workers as safe as possible, as informed as they can be, and it will include action steps for after any storm hits, too. It will also help you ensure you protect your property and equipment as best you can.
Every business will have a different list of factors to take into account, but consider the following as a place to start:
- Create an organized response operations
- Establish a chain of command, identify leaders that can help implement the plan
- Provide special personal protective equipment, purchase it before the storm ever happens
- Know exactly where workers are located—and implications in your plan
- Evacuation zones for all workers, including map routes when possible
- Ensure you have notifications systems and key ways to communicate to people, including lone/remote workers
- Make sure you have ways for workers to communicate with you—not just ways you can reach out to them
- Establish methods to protect assets and equipment
- Identify ways you’ll fortify your locations—and who will be tasked with doing so
- Identify the biggest risks and hazards at every work location (and how you will reduce those hazards)
- How data can be backed up (which is made easier if you use a cloud-based system)
- Who will need to be a part of the recovery/response team and the responsibilities and roles they will have
- Create checklists that can be used before, during, and post-hurricane to help identify and minimize/remove hazards and risks
Perhaps the biggest benefit of going through the planning process? Getting clear on the hazards and risks your company and people may face—and then working to reduce and minimize those risks with your plan.
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2. Train your people
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Executing the plan is key. Creating a plan helps you identify major risks and hazards, and that’s key. Also make sure you train and practice so that team members are more aware of how to respond and manage a natural disaster situation.
This helps to avoid a chaotic, disorganized response if and when a hurricane or emergency happens.
Ask them for questions and be sure they feel their roles and responsibilities are clear after training. Going through training and practice sessions can also ensure two-way emergency communication is working as it should.
3. Make sure your emergency communication plan is detailed & practiced
As part of that plan, ensure forms of communication and methods of communication are outlined. One of the best things you can do before any storm ever hits is to test your emergency communication plan, so don’t neglect this step.
4. Ensure all worker forms are updated
One of the first things you’ll want to have is verification and confirmation that every worker is safe. With out-of-date worker records or contact lists, that’s going to be very challenging.
Do the work ahead of time to make sure every kind of contact information (and emergency contact) is up to date. Yes, that may seem like a never-ending task, but after any storm strikes, you’ll use this list to make sure all workers are safe and secure.
5. Always pay attention
Pay attention to forecasts and to changes in weather in general. It seems obvious, but it’s a necessary step to never take anything for granted, especially if you have various job sites.
Part of this is about having all your workers pay attention, too. Ensure they know how to receive alerts and warnings directly from media or from resources such as the National Weather Service for all hazards.
6. Refer to your plan for shutting off electricity
A major point you don’t want to miss: Utilize your plan for shutting off and turning off equipment and your production processes. That way, you know exactly how to shut down production processes in a safe manner and how and when to turn off any electricity where it would be safe and necessary to do so (3, 4).
7. Focus on saving lives
Realize that evacuations are much more common than you may think (4). If and when it’s time to evacuate workers, do so without hesitation! Life safety is a key principle of every emergency response, and the logistics you have in place need to be able to align with your plan to protect your people (and property).
As just two examples, that might include making sure there is shelter place for workers or even implementing back-up power systems.
8. Implement your plan for hurricane recovery
When the storm has passed, you’ve called or contacted your workers to ensure people are safe and secure. You will likely encounter hazardous and emotionally gripping conditions. Accidents, illnesses, or exposures can occur. Risks for gastrointestinal illness, dehydration, overexertion, and illness spread by skin and wound infections will likely increase, according to the CDC and OSHA.
Next, you’ll want to get your business back into operation. If you’re not careful, this is where accidents can happen. Complacency can be lurking around every corner.
- Poor Housekeeping
- Ignoring Safety
- Incomplete Instructions
- Failure to Pre-plan
- Mental Distractions
As you begin to rebuild, be sure to start each day with a tool-box talk to talk through potential hazards and hear concerns. This meeting should focus on Health, Safety, and Resilience, for example: Post-Trauma DOs and DON’Ts.
You’ll need maintenance people should be able to help with clean up. They can also help replace or repair equipment as needed. You’ll also want to have resources that can help you clean up storm-related debris, which is likely to be an issue (3).
Consider having a team leader look comprehensively at hazards with your power lines, electrical wires, and more (3). They can also lead the process of:
- Fixing structural damage or foundational issues
- Addressing any broken fire protection alarms or related equipment
- Temporary repairs so people can safely access the building (3, 4)
Even though the storm itself may have passed, be sure there is a way for workers to be able to contact and communicate outwardly, especially with any emergency response teams if necessary (3). As you clean up and implement this process post-storm, don’t forget to keep communicating with all your workers so that they are notified every step of the way.
Helping out during an emergency can be emotionally taxing. Employees may experience mental and emotional stress, and increased physical stress, during deployment and afterward.
Make Sure Your Organization Is Prepared for Hurricane Season
Preparing for risks and acting on those preparations if and when major storms, flooding, or high winds hit is important this hurricane season…and it can save lives. iReportSource can help you identify and reduce those risks and help you make sure no process is ever overlooked or lost in your disaster preparedness and recovery efforts.
Sources used and further reading: