Emergency Preparedness and Response

Preparing Your Workplace for a Hurricane

Hurricane season is here. These monster storms can strike with tremendous, destructive force. And when they do, winds, water, and flying debris can threaten your business and your employees. Preparation is the key to survival and recovery.

Preparation for hurricane season should begin long before the first hurricane warning is announced, says the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE). But if you haven’t already made your hurricane survival and recovery plans, there’s no time like the present.

To prepare your business for a hurricane, ASSE recommends taking these basic steps:

  • Plan for survival and recovery. Assess how you can keep your business operating after a hurricane. Also plan what to do if your facility is damaged or inaccessible,and developa “continuity of operations” plan.
  • Determine procedures and individual crisis management responsibilities. Make sure designated managers understand their accountability and how to perform their crisis duties effectively.
  • Coordinate with others. Meet with other businesses in your area as well as police, fire department, hospitals, and utility companies. Also talk to suppliers, shippers, and others with whom you regularly do business.
  • Prepare employees. Make sure they know your emergency plan, and how to respond appropriately in the event of a hurricane.
  • Review emergency plans annually to account for changes in your business and community.

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Hurricane Warning

When you’re notified that a hurricane is approaching, take these steps, compiled from information issued by the University of Southern Florida and Alachua County (FL) school system:

  • Clear desk tops completely of paper and other articles, and place these items in drawers or file cabinets.
  • Back up critical computer files and store them in an off-site location (preferably in another region).
  • Unplug all computers and other electronic equipment, cover with plastic, and tape down.
  • Move desks, file cabinets, computer systems, and irreplaceable materials away from windows and off the floor (preferably into  interior room with no windows).
  • If flooding is a possibility, to the extent practical, relocate critical equipment from the ground floor to a higher floor or a higher off-site location.
  • Lock file cabinets and desk drawers.
  • Board up windows and large exterior glass doors before any major hurricane. (If you can’t do this, use masking tape in a cross-hatch pattern on any large glass areas.)
  • Close and lock windows and lower blinds.
  • Lock and secure all doors.
  • Remove all loose items (garbage cans, chairs, tables, plants, etc.) from outside the buildings.
  • Don’t return to the workplace until the "all clear" is given.

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Hurricane Safety at Home

The University of Southern Florida also has suggestions for keeping safe at home during a hurricane. Share these safety tips with your employees:

  • Leave hazardous areas early because roads to safe locations may become impassable several hours prior to the arrival of hurricane conditions.

  • Stay away from low-lying beaches or other locations, which may be swept by high tides or storm waves.

  • Stay home if your house is safe from high water and flash flooding.

  • Bring in everything that could blow away, such as garbage cans, garden tools, furniture, and plants. 

  • Close and secure garage doors.

  • Raise awnings, tie them securely, or take them down.
  • Fasten storm shutters or board up windows with good lumber.

  • Turn off all electrical power to the pool and remove all loose items from the area, but don’t drain.

  • Have supplies such as food, plenty of drinking water, medications, flashlights, and a battery-operated radio on hand.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about workplace emergency action in general, addressing preparation for all kinds of disasters, natural or man-made.

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