Lessons Learned from a Wicked Winter

Business Continuity Planning

Unfortunately, this past winter’s severe weather affected the bottom line of many U.S. businesses. According to a study conducted by our parent company FM Global, over 25% of U.S. businesses say that their company was affected financially as a result of the winter weather and many did not have an emergency plan in place. A third of the people polled in the survey said that the companies’ greatest concerns when facing such storms were property damage, business continuity planning and loss of profits.

As a result of the severe weather, storm related financial losses caused many companies to change the way they do business and it’s become imperative that a business continuity plan addresses the risk of severe weather. Preparation is vital, and a business continuity plan will mitigate the potential for property damage and loss of business revenue. Now is the ideal time to create a weather contingency plan to prevent next year’s weather from affecting your bottom line. Below is a guideline of items that should be considered when planning for the unexpected.

Contingency Planning

  • Plan as if freeze-ups are a certainty, even if your business operations are located in a warm climate where severe temperature drops are uncommon;
  • Create a communication plan for all critical employees;
  • Monitor weather conditions and patrol building for cold spots, damages and leaks;
  • Arrange for alternate supplies of critical materials;
  • Implement a procedure to maintain your building’s protective features such as alarm systems and sprinkler systems;
  • Contract snow removal services, including the roof after heavy snows;
  • Ensure roof drains and scuppers are clean and unobstructed
  • Plan to maintain heat to avoid pipes from freezing through the use of supplemental heat or back up power;
  • Consider installing heat tracing for water lines in concealed and/or unheated spaces;
  • Research vendor agreements to service customers in the event your company is unable to;
  • Plan to deal with product spoilage which can include transfer of product, accelerated delivery to customers, and/or delayed deliveries from suppliers, etc.
  • Consider a retainer contract with a power rental dealer if the business power requirements are very high. Ultimately, supplemental power for businesses require more planning due to larger electrical load requirements.

While planning these major preparation steps, don’t overlook the minor ones. Install surge protection for critical electrical switchgear and equipment. Consider installing a UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) system for your critical computers. Replace missing insulation, repair broken windows, drain idle equipment and make sure you have a plan to remove snow from around fire hydrants so they can be accessible if needed. Now is an ideal time to have the trees that overhang your business, or are close to overhead wires, trimmed to reduce the likelihood of them coming down during a storm.

In addition to the critical steps listed above, there are many additional resources available to help prepare for weather emergencies. Please visit www.READY.gov or www.fmglobal.com/nathaz for more pertinent information.

About the Research

FM Global fielded the study in mid-February 2014 about the impact of severe winter weather on U.S. businesses, using the research services of Toluna. Full-time employees, age 18 and older, were screened from a nationally representative sample. The survey had a margin of error of plus/minus 4.3 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level, and was completed by 521 participants.

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