How to Prepare Your Business for a Hailstorm
Each year, hail causes costly damage to businesses across the United States. According to the NOAA's 2020 severe weather report, the U.S. experienced 4,611 major hailstorms — bringing heavy rain and sizable hail viable enough to damage roofs, dent vehicles, and crack windows or windshields. These severe storms resulted in more than 332,000 hail claims paid by State Farm, totaling over $3.1 billion in losses covered.
However, the reality is that hail damage is far more common than can be represented by State Farm claims data alone. Organizations can take several steps to prepare for the impact of a hailstorm. A suitable contingency and recovery plan can help protect the people and assets of any business.
Read the full article or jump to a specific section:
- Conduct a Preparedness Assessment
- Create a Contingency Plan
- Create a Communication Plan
- Practice Your Plan
- Protect Your Assets
- Partner With VPS to Protect Your Business
Conduct a Preparedness Assessment
Business operations don't have to slow down when forecasts show heavy rain, hailstorms, or other natural disasters. Assessing who and what may be impacted can help an organization prepare for the storm. A business would want to protect several different areas: its people, suppliers, site facilities, and other critical assets.
Employee support is a priority for a business to succeed. It is vital to prepare for scenarios where the typical on-site operations must be altered in response to a hailstorm or other natural disaster. Whether the facility itself is shut down or employees are otherwise unable to access it, a business will need to establish specific procedures for their team. Employees should be a part of the overall recovery plan — because, without employee support, they will be unable to support the organization in return.
Depending on the business and industry, it may be vital for a company to communicate how a storm has impacted operations with its customers. When alternate work plans are implemented, a company can leverage technology to automate email, social media, or text alerts. Hailstorms can cause interruptions in customer service or changes to the hours of operation, which must be appropriately shared with customers to avoid further accidents and misunderstandings.
The companies located in the path of a severe storm may not be the only businesses affected by the hail and rain. Even if the organization's headquarters are kept miles away from an approaching hurricane, the company may rely on other organizations hit by the storm. Travel disruptions, outages, and shortages in the supply chain may still impact businesses outside of the hurricane-prone area. A thorough contingency plan will address how to handle disrupted deliveries and logistical issues. An established communication plan for suppliers is essential in cases of emergency.
Hail can significantly damage the physical locations where business operations are performed. Any hail stones greater than an inch in diameter have a higher potential to damage the building's roof, gutters, and windows. An impaired site facility can lead to extended downtime after the storm has passed, increasing the amount of financial pressure the organization must overcome. A contingency plan that includes protective measures for the site facilities and immobile equipment is vital in restoring operations quickly and efficiently.
Business owners must understand the location of all necessary documents, sensitive data, and critical assets at each site facility. This information is vital for determining how hail may impact the on-site paper documents and electronics. Heavy rain, strong winds, sizable hail, and flooding can threaten critical assets, especially when data is unprotected or only exists in one location. Experts recommend that copies of essential documents be relocated to a safe, remote location. All data can similarly be backed up in the cloud.
Create a Contingency Plan
An effective contingency and recovery plan extends to all parts of a business. When organizing a contingency plan, it is essential to prepare strategies for before, during, and after the hailstorm:
- Before: It is crucial to have a plan in place for when a hailstorm or other natural disaster strikes. While the plan should include protocols for when a storm approaches, it may also include other tasks that can be performed well in advance of the hurricane warning. Consider developing a system for monitoring threats, backing up essential data regularly, keeping emergency supplies well-stocked, and budgeting for other emergency expenses.
- During: Communication with employees, customers, and suppliers is vital during a hailstorm. When a business enters emergency status, the entire team must be aware of the placement procedures, alternate work schedules, and how operations may be impacted. Secure outdoor objects, board up windows and protect equipment that cannot be moved to a safer location. Meanwhile, any documents and electronics kept in the open must be relocated immediately.
- After: Informing employees and customers when the facility is operational again can be as crucial as sending updates during the storm. After the hailstorm has passed, it is recommended to assess the damages as soon as possible. A contingency and recovery plan is meant to minimize risks and help protect the people and assets. However, the storm may still damage the site facility, which should be addressed quickly before the next storm.
Recover from natural disasters and return to business operations faster with a well-organized plan in place. Once a company has identified the areas within its control, the next step is to establish an overall strategy. Begin with the following general guidelines for creating a contingency plan.
Utilize Technology to Monitor Threats
Today's technology allows for earlier identification of approaching storms. Many organizations have developed systems to monitor threats for various office locations and employee home addresses in real-time. Utilize methods and employ technology to track the severity of a hailstorm as it approaches a site facility. Alerts inform business owners of which people and assets may be impacted.
This advanced warning can help activate contingency plans much quicker, allowing more time to prepare the business and notify the right response teams.
Backup Essential Data
Select and store data off-site to protect sensitive information from being lost or ruined. Some organizations may choose to keep a backup server or copies of critical documents at an alternate location. Data should also be saved to the cloud or an external device regularly.
When the facility enters emergency status, any physical papers and electronics kept on-site must be located away from any windows that could break from the hail. Follow these steps to secure important files and protect sensitive data from the heavy rain, strong winds, and flooding that can threaten the area.
Stock Emergency Supplies
Keep supplies on hand for employees who may be on-site when the hailstorm approaches. Implement a provisions checklist and ensure the items are stocked regularly. Employees need access to a first-aid kit, water supplies, flashlights, extra batteries, and extra light bulbs in case of emergencies.
Some employers may choose to establish a specialized team of employees to remain on-site during the storm's duration. These employees will require additional provisions such as food, spare clothing, and other amenities like toothpaste, soap, razors, shaving cream, and hairdryers. If a business intends to have select employees stay at the facility, the supply list will need basic emergency supplies and the necessary provisions for overnight stay. Sleeping and bathing facilities must also be available for employee use.
Budget for Emergency Expenses
Consider the types of disaster assistance funds, emergency loans, and other financial assistance that may be needed to support employees. Budgeting for emergency supplies must also be considered. It's crucial to ensure that those who still work in your area have the infrastructure, provisions, and appropriate technology required to continue business operations, even when it hails.
Meanwhile, those working from home or another remote location will need a well-protected IT crew who can help remote workers at risk of their own severe weather. Employers may need to budget for transportation, daycare, and temporary lodging for employees and their families. Storms can build up quickly and unexpectedly, even with monitoring technology keeping companies updated. A business can cover its people, facilities, and assets with adequate budgeting to ensure operations continue running smoothly.
Establish Employee Placement and Remote Work Procedures
A business must prepare particular procedures for employees to follow in the event of a hailstorm, whether the employer decides to close the facility or turn on backup generators. Consider how operations will change when the facility is shut down, temporarily unreachable, and when it reopens after a storm. It is essential to have a timely response for continuing key business functions even when the storm causes complications.
When the business facility is operational, but travel may be unsafe during the storm, an organization may need to evaluate the risk of employees driving to work. Hailstorms and flooding roads can damage vehicles and even lead to employee injuries. One way to address the problem of employee access is to prepare a pre-selected team that can provide on-site support at the facility throughout the storm's duration. With employees staying overnight in the office, transportation is no longer a concern for employers planning to keep a facility operational during the storm.
If the business requires an immediate shutdown, it may be essential to have an established plan for remote work. Critical business functions will need to be maintained even when the business facility isn't available. Today, many organizations have an emergency response plan for completing operations remotely. Companies may choose to temporarily relocate employees to areas outside the hailstorm's strike zone. Other organizations may already have employees stationed far away from the office headquarters who can access remote equipment.
As a result, hailstorms could significantly impact some workers more than others. Ensure each person understands their responsibilities and has access to the right resources and equipment needed to perform their job effectively. When the storm has passed and the facility is operational once again, post procedures to facilitate a return to on-site operations are just as essential. While remote workers may be a new normal for many businesses, it can still be necessary to have a dedicated on-site crew that will need a plan for their quick and efficient return to the office.
Create a Communication Plan
Communication is necessary for implementing the contingency and recovery plan. Whether a hailstorm affects the business headquarters or an employee's home office, there must be a designated procedure for reporting and receiving updates. When hailstorms approach, employers need a specific communication plan to ensure the appropriate actions are being taken.
When an emergency is declared, the company must be prepared to give timely updates to its employees, customers, and suppliers. Consider how employees will receive updates about relocation and alternate work plans and how an oncoming hailstorm may impact a supplier's ability to perform key functions.
Effective communication is needed to:
- Coordinate emergency activities and response teams.
- Warn employees of impending danger and ideal travel routes.
- Maintain contact with customers, suppliers, and vendors.
- Update families about what's happening on-site.
- Inform off-duty personnel of alternate work plans.
- Provide ongoing, reliable information to the media.
Organizations must communicate effectively to keep their people safe and ensure their operations run smoothly as the storm progresses. Email may not be quick enough to serve as a suitable emergency communication system during a disaster. Ensure employees receive the information they need even faster by utilizing multiple channels with two-way communication capabilities, such as phone calls, text messages, and mobile push notifications.
Consider also creating a resource page where employees can access updates in real-time. Remote workers, on-site teams, and off-duty personnel can all receive the same information about office closures, alternate schedules, and changes to operations throughout the storm. Establish backup communication methods to ensure placement procedures are followed successfully.
Practice Your Plan
Once contingency and communication plans are in place, train all employees to take the appropriate action. First, organize a planning team comprised of individuals with varying responsibilities in the organization. Analyze the plan and create a preparedness checklist with tasks that must be completed before, during, and after a disaster. If particular aspects need to be added or altered, update the contingency plan to reflect these new procedures instead.
Test the plan. Identify who is responsible for specific tasks and determine backup solutions if a person cannot perform their task. Educate all personnel through training sessions, drills, and mock disasters. Whether they work remotely or from the organization's headquarters, all employees should attend a scheduled training session where everyone can run through the plan and ask questions. Practice will help find areas where protocols can be improved.
The goal of practice is to ensure a plan can be executed appropriately when a real disaster strikes. Depending on the business and industry, some workers could be more significantly impacted by hailstorms than others. This can increase the number of potential mock scenarios that a company must consider. Both remote and on-site employees may capture valuable lessons about the importance of communication in a simulated natural disaster scenario.
Protect Your Assets
Most employers will benefit from having both a contingency plan and a well-organized preparedness checklist. A thorough inspection of the site facility and equipment can be performed at each stage to identify items that still need obtaining, securing, or repairing before the next round of extreme weather arrives. The number of site facilities and assets that need to be protected will depend on the business and industry.
Consult with a response team to evaluate all potential risks and areas that require preparation before a storm. Here are some guidelines on how to secure buildings and protect assets from hail and heavy rain:
Prep the Physical Structure
When it comes to the physical structure of site facilities, the essential areas to inspect include roofs, gutters, windows, and the general perimeter of the building. Ensure that there are no signs of existing damage, which the hail can accelerate to allow water into the facility.
Protection methods for external buildings may include:
- Boarding up windows and other vulnerable entry points to protect against hail and high-speed flying debris.
- Checking the roof, gutters, and foundation for water damage or leaks that may worsen during a storm.
- Placing sandbags around the structure's base to divert moving water and reduce flooding damage.
- Preparing a supply of gasoline-powered pumps to clear out floodwater on lower levels of the building.
- Ensuring the backup power system can maintain critical security systems, like cameras, detectors, and fire alarms.
- Trimming trees to prevent the risk of falling limbs or branches that could damage the roof and gutters.
Implement a regular preventative maintenance schedule for all systems and equipment in the facility. Documented inspections can help avoid costly repairs in the aftermath of a damaging hailstorm. Inspect equipment and fixtures regularly to ensure operations run smoothly despite the severe weather outside.
Consider relocating all physical assets to a separate, more secure location at the first sign of an approaching storm. If possible, move valuable equipment to higher ground and keep it away from any windows to protect against potential flooding.
Relocate Interior Assets
Consider moving all sensitive documents, furniture, electronics, and other portable equipment to higher levels for the building's interior. Keep windows sealed and ensure all valuable assets are stored far away from vulnerable apertures. When enough warning is given ahead of a storm, consider relocating assets to a safer, remote location and instruct employees to keep their personal belongings at home.
If employees continue operations in at-risk areas, ensure that they can quickly locate a first aid kit, flashlights, and other emergency supplies. Non-perishable food and water supplies may also be necessary.
Secure Outdoor Objects
Depending on the business and industry, particular assets may be housed outdoors that must be properly secured before the strong winds, heavy rain, and damaging hail can arrive. Construction companies must secure tarps over their supplies to prevent losses and damages. Restaurants with outdoor seating may need to bring chairs and umbrellas indoors to prevent them from blowing away. Consider what outdoor objects may exist and what can be done to keep them safe.
Utilize Vehicle Protection Shelters
In addition to outdoor objects, most companies must consider the damage hail can do to vehicles parked in a commercial lot. A severe hailstorm can shatter windshields and cause significant damage to auto bodies, potentially devastating the company, employee, customer, or other visitor cars kept outside the building. Hailstones larger than an inch in diameter may even decommission entire fleets. Protect vehicles in commercial parking lots from hail and severe weather with hail protection structures from VPS.
A sudden hailstorm can expose numerous commercial parking lots to extreme weather, resulting in thousands of dollars of damage to vehicles, distribution centers, products, and more. Employees who plan to continue working in at-risk areas will have peace of mind knowing their car is secure under a hail protection structure. Prevent hail from reducing performance by minimizing downtime and feel more confident continuing operations during a storm. A covered parking solution can reduce the risk of damage from unexpected hailstorms for customers. This will, in turn, reduce the risk of liability from customer vehicles being damaged on a facility's premises.
Partner With VPS to Protect Your Business
At VPS, our structures are uniquely designed with materials that can withstand the expanding threat of hail. Covered parking solutions for asset hail protection are our specialty and the primary focus for many of our projects. As a market leader, our goal is to help protect businesses from weather elements and hail.
We offer a wide range of product options, including mass coverage capabilities, covered walkways, and cantilevers. Our custom builds are designed for your specific operational needs and property size, meaning we can handle any industry project. Contact our team of experts today for more information about how our products can help protect your business and assets from hail damage.