People often associate “severe weather” with the warm, stormy summer and fall months. Yet winter can deliver just as many weather-related risks and costs to your business—if not more.
A 2013 report by the National Climatic Data Center found that winter storms and freezes together accounted for 12% of all billion-dollar weather and climate-related disasters between 1980 and 2011. That’s likely because severe winter weather events, including blizzards and major snow and ice storms, can cause many costly problems for businesses. These include power outages due to downed power lines, frozen pipes that burst, collapsed roofs due to snow and ice and other damage. Winter weather can also cause numerous disruptions that force businesses to suspend or close operations.
Make sure your business is ready for these severe winter weather risks by taking steps in advance to prevent and protect against them. Here are three key steps:
1. Assess your winter weather risks.
Every business is different, so it’s important to understand the key risks your business would face in event of a severe snow or ice storm. Such analysis can help you tackle the most critical risks. Would a major power outage disable your business operations? Does your business have pipes that could freeze and burst, damaging your business assets and property and requiring major repairs? Would you or your employees be stranded at home in a blizzard and unable to perform key duties? A common and costly problem for businesses during and after blizzards and ice storms is that customer traffic falls significantly due to hazardous road conditions.
2. Have a severe weather plan.
Once you identify the key risks, make detailed plans for how you will deal with them and minimize the disruption to your business. For example, consider how to make your records accessible remotely in case your employees are stranded at home during or after a storm. Many businesses back up their key records and documents on the cloud, so they can be accessed remotely. If an extended power outage is a top concern, consider ways to prevent it from shutting down your operations, such as installing backup power generation or working from a remote location that’s unlikely to have a power outage at the same time.
Businesses will also want to put together a list of key employees, clients and vendors and their contact information, so those people can be contacted in case severe weather requires a change of plans or operations. That list should be stored in a place that’s accessible remotely, such as on the cloud or via email.
This Weather Planning Tool can help you build a customized business continuity plan based on weather risks in your area.
3. Review your insurance coverage.
Insurance can protect you and help you avoid the financial strain caused by business interruption, storm damage or other severe winter weather-related risks. You need to make sure you carry the right type and level of coverage, though. Business income coverage helps you get your business up and running again faster, so you can avoid costly downtime.
Before the next severe weather system sweeps in, make sure you’re ready for it. A few steps can go along way in preventing costly damage and downtime.
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