Wind damage can deal a severe blow to a small business, but you can protect yours by bracing for windy weather and taking steps to help avoid a major loss.

Damaging winds, which weather experts call “straight-line winds” to distinguish them from the rotating air of tornadoes, often accompany thunderstorms. These gusts blow at speeds greater than 50 to 60 miles per hour — and can even reach 100 mph. Thunderstorms that bring damaging winds may also cause hail, which can hit your business hard.

The good news is that business insurance can help cover you if your property does get damaged by wind or hail, so it pays to make sure you have the right coverage in place. An assessment of claims data by The Hartford found that wind and hail damage account for about 15% of all small business insurance claims, with an average claim cost of $26,000.

In addition to making sure you’re properly covered, you can take easy, inexpensive preventative measures to safeguard your business from the next storm that blows in.

Here are five steps to take to prepare for windy weather:

1. Shore up trees on the property

Strong winds commonly cause damage by ripping off branches or toppling trees, which can fall onto buildings or other property. Fortunately, you can shore up your landscaping to prevent wind damage caused by trees. Hire a certified arborist who can check the trees around your business and recommend any necessary steps to prune, stabilize, or remove unsafe trees. An arborist should check for:

Trees that are in danger of toppling over — for example, those that are leaning or have large hollow trunk spaces, shallow root systems, obvious decay, or mushroom growth that could indicate rot

Limbs that could fall on property — for example, those that are cracked, or hanging over a building or power lines

It’s dangerous to try to remove a tree yourself, so leave the job to an arborist or professional tree removal company with the proper skills and equipment. If a tree is dangerously close to electrical wires or poles, you can call the utility company to deal with the issue at no cost to your business.

2. Evaluate your landscaping

If your property has pea gravel or small rocks in a garden or driveway, consider swapping these out for items that won’t break windows or dent siding in a windstorm. For placement around flowers and shrubs, soft mulch makes a better choice. If you have a gravel drive, consider switching to asphalt or cement.

3. Secure objects outside

Large, heavy objects also can turn into dangerous projectiles in strong winds. Make the rounds outside your business and take note of any items — such as heavy trash receptacles, outdoor furniture, exterior lights, or signs — that could be unleashed by a windstorm. Use chains to attach lids to garbage cans. If you’ve got a fence on your property, make sure it’s in good repair, with no loose boards that could get dislodged by wind.

4. Get your roof checked

Your roof is the “first line of defense” against wind and hail, but it’s also the most vulnerable part of your commercial building, according to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. Hire a licensed, bonded, and insured roofing professional to perform a commercial roofing inspection in spring and fall to make sure your roof is in tip-top shape. The roofing pro will check for:

  • Aging or weathering of roofing materials
  • Loose or missing shingles
  • Bubbles, tears, or crack in the roof
  • A loose lightning protection system that could detach and damage the roof in strong winds
  • Skylights that are not well sealed, which could let rain into the building during high winds
  • Gaps in rooftop vents
  • Debris on the roof that could damage the roofing materials over time

5. Protect your company vehicles

Secure all vehicles used for your business in a protected location, such as a garage or carport. If you don’t have a secure parking area, you might be surprised to learn that you can purchase a basic metal carport for a few hundred dollars. If buying a carport isn’t feasible now, avoid parking under trees and power lines. And, when you know a storm is coming, consider parking on the side of the building opposite the direction of the storm’s approach to let the building shield your vehicle from the wind.

When You Suspect Wind Damage

If wind damage occurs despite your best efforts, you might need to turn to your business insurance for coverage. When your property has sustained wind damage, call your insurer right away to start the claims process.

Even if you think there was no damage, it’s smart to have a roof inspection after a storm that involves strong winds or hail. A storm can weaken the roof, and addressing any issues quickly can prevent major damage down the road.

It’s also smart to assess the trees on your property in the aftermath of a storm, in case lightning or high winds cracked or weakened a branch that later could fall and harm a person or property.

If you’re aware of the power of strong gusts, and you take steps to secure your property, you can help prevent strong winds from disrupting your business.