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Hurricane Preparation Planning For Facility Managers

Hurrican Preparation Planning For Facility Managers

We all know that hurricanes are violent storms with the potential to cause severe damage and destruction to anything within their range. The good thing is, with today’s technology meteorologists are able to forecast hurricanes well in advance of their approach. Thankfully facility management can make it a point to take advantage of these insights. Advance preparation can leave facility leadership with a solid framework by which to weather the storm and protect their facilities, and the businesses and employees therein. We encourage facility management teams to refer to the following guidelines.

Assess What’s Most Important

There are three key elements that keep a business up and running: its employees, assets, and location. Taking swift action early enough to protect these elements from the threat of a hurricane will help you to maintain order and rebound quickly after the storm has passed.

Protecting Your Employees. When facing a potential crisis, an organization’s workforce looks to management for leadership and guidance to help keep them safe and informed. There are challenges to this that exist in today’s highly mobile workforce that didn’t exist even just ten years ago. Several factors to take into consideration are:

  • Where is each staff member located (in real-time)?
  • Which employees travel and what is their current schedule?
  • If you have remote workers, do you know where they are in any given moment?
  • Do you have a mass notification system in place to quickly and easily notify your people?
  • Is each employee being tracked by HR, travel, and/or building badge systems so they can be reached immediately?


Inventory Your Assets. 
The potential for flooding, high winds, gas shortages, and power shortages pose a threat to all kinds of business assets, including network, data, equipment, technology, supplies, products, and overall facilities. Identifying the following assets now can help to prevent stress later on:

  • Where are your assets located?
  • What kind of physical protection is available for each asset?
  • Which assets are critical to running the business?
  • Are these assets owned or insured?
  • What assets are leased, and what is your responsibility if they’re damaged?


Note: To help businesses “prepare for and adapt to changing conditions and recover rapidly from operational disruptions,” the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends referring to their Continuity Tool Kit.

Fortify Your Locations. Geographic location can certainly influence a property’s vulnerability to disaster by a hurricane. That said, while severe flooding is more likely to occur in coastal regions, facilities located inland are still susceptible to great danger. Hurricanes may weaken, but even slow-moving systems can hover over populated areas and cause catastrophic flooding and water damage. Whether your facility is comprised of a single unit or multiple buildings, you’ll need to consider how to reinforce each individual location. Consider the following questions:

  • What is the address of every location under your company umbrella including storage facilities and transportation lots?
  • What is the evacuation plan for each facility? For example entrances/exits; stairs, elevators and escalators; parking lots; and access to the closest hurricane evacuation route.
  • Which people/teams work at each location?
  • What are the biggest risks for each facility and how fortified are they to withstand potential damage?
  • What types of materials are in place necessary to getting the facility up and running again?


Draw Up an Emergency Plan

Having an emergency plan in place is vital to minimizing the panic and confusion that hurricanes can cause. Your plan should maintain some flexibility in case of unforeseen circumstances, but it should certainly incorporate core infrastructure elements that are unlikely to change as the company grows. Here’s how you can plan ahead to protect these elements:

Back-Up Your Data. To safeguard against on-premise damage, like flooding or fires which can destroy on-site servers, you’ll want to ensure that all company data is backed up offsite. Backing up data regularly should ideally become a habit so that, in the case of a hurricane or other weather event, your business won’t suffer loss should your server go down.

Set Up Cloud Systems. Cloud-based systems can expedite the disaster-recovery process. Converting key business systems and mobile device data to the cloud, including payroll, CRM, and HR systems, will allow these systems to be accessed remotely in the event your company needs to work from a different location.

Create Checklists. A checklist of tasks that need to be performed before, during, and after a hurricane can help to ensure that nothing is missed. The list should be both stored on a cloud application for easy access, and also physically posted for easy reference in the case of a power outage. Also, be sure to communicate this list to key stakeholders if you’ll be out of the office or unavailable at the time a hurricane is expected to touch down.

Review Contracts. Don’t wait for the aftermath of a major storm to review your contractual obligations with vendors, insurance providers, and landlords. Take the time to review contracts for specific mentions of weather-related events, damages, and complete loss. If a contract doesn’t reference these potential situations, contact contract owners directly to find out what their weather-related clauses and policies are.

Map Evacuation Routes. Safety is the number one priority in the event of any threat, and hurricanes certainly qualify here. An explicit plan to help employees promptly locate the safest way out of their facility will minimize chaos. You’ll need to determine which stairwells and doors should be used, identify parking lot exits, and what surrounding streets should be taken. Posting physical maps on each floor will help to familiarize your staff with approved evacuation routes. Holding drills on regular days when no weather-threats are posed will also help to acquaint employees with proper evacuation procedures.

Implement a Two-Way Communication System. It can’t be emphasized enough how important communication is. In the event of a hurricane, good communication can potentially save lives. You’ll want to ensure that every staff member is safe and able to communicate with leadership and with each other. You should not rely on the internet alone, as it can be rendered inaccessible during a power outage. Implementing emergency communication software can enable a company’s leadership to deliver real-time information to employees across multiple channels and devices simultaneously. Such a system can also be used to check in with employees for status updates, and to provide evacuation details. You’ll want to optimize this system by regularly updating your company directory with accurate contact information for each employee. Many systems include pre-set templates to help administrators pre-emptively prepare so that during a weather event they will be able to relay information swiftly with only a few clicks. Messages created in advance and stored on these templates eliminate the need to create a message from scratch, which can save precious minutes in the face of a dangerous storm. Ideal templates to use should include email, voicemail scripts, SMS texts, and push notifications.

Create Emergency Response Teams

It takes a proverbial village to protect your people, assets, and locations. Once your plan is in place, it’s time to delegate responsibilities and practice its execution. Here are three steps necessary to provide everyone with a thorough understanding of what to do in the event of a hurricane:

Define Clear Roles and Responsibilities. Your plan will have moving parts involving multiple people, so be sure to designate roles to employees you trust can handle the challenge. Communicate specific responsibilities with each individual stakeholder and ensure that they have the resources and technology they’ll need. Be clear with everyone about who is on each team, and who they can turn to for specific information.

Train Teams. Gather the team to review protocols and answer any questions they may have. Be sure to modify the plan as the company evolves should new locations be acquired, expansions be built, or facilities be changed.

Role Play. Hold mock drills to practice your plan. Though role play may feel silly, rest assured that when actually faced with the dangers of a hurricane, team members will be more likely to remember a drill than an office memo. You can opt to give the team notice, or to conduct impromptu drills to mimic a real-life emergency.

As you can see, careful planning in conjunction with these guidelines can make all the difference. Taking proactive steps now, before a hurricane hits, can help to ensure everyone’s safety in the midst of one. It will also give weather-damaged facilities accessibility to a quicker recovery process and can help protect businesses by minimizing their total losses.

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