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Gearing up for a storm

Friday, April 25, 2014 8:36 AM | Deleted user

Our recent April snowstorm should be proof enough about how unpredictable weather can be, not just in the spring, but all year long. This week is Severe Weather Awareness Week and we've been focusing on storms and how we can prepare and react to save lives and keep businesses running efficiently during and after the storm.

To get a better idea of what we can do to gear up for severe weather, let’s use an infamous snowstorm from the past few months-not one of ours. The snowstorm that shut down Atlanta in January has a lot of good lessons for us, even here in Minnesota. Atlanta may not have been prepared to deal with the over three inches of snow that landed on them, but how they handled their emergency is a learning lesson for business continuity professionals everywhere.

Advance warning

Many blamed weather reporting service for a lack of preparedness. Reports and predictions were not fast enough or accurate enough for everyone to properly prepare. If that’s true or not is hard to say, but either way it’s a great reason to start thinking about how your business gets information about impending severe weather.

During our April Meeting, Julie Anderson of Homeland Security and Emergency Management warned us against waiting for sirens to react and encouraged everyone to put an alert system into place with multiple information sources. Mobile technology gives us access to weather alerts on our phones, in the palms of our hands. Weather radios can also be a good source of accurate and timely information. However it is you’re getting your information, you need a plan and it needs to be reliable.

Communication

Once your business knows severe weather is coming, you need a communication plan for how and when you will alert employees and what actions you’ll recommend they take.

The traffic jam that occurred during the Atlanta snow storm that left commuters stranded for hours in their cars was the result of a mass exodus from work as reports came in of bad weather. Had the departures been staggered at intervals, road conditions would not have gotten so jammed up. Sheltering in places as opposed to sending employees home would have also saved lives and lightened traffic on icy roads.

Preparedness

Businesses should be prepared to shelter employees for up to three days if it becomes necessary. Having supplies of food and water on-hand to keep employees comfortable is important, because even in the case that FEMA is coming to rescue you, they have a lot of work to do and it will take time.

The Atlanta snowstorm turned what residents expected to be ten minute commutes into ten hour commutes. That ten hours was probably much more comfortable for those who had water and food stored in their cars.

Learning by example is a great way to help prepare your business for a weather emergency. There may be a significant gap in what you plan and how you need to react, understanding the challenges Atlanta faced in January can help your business better prepare and react well when your emergency strikes.

Hopefully no one will be dealing with any snow-related severe weather for at least another 6 months, but that doesn't mean that now isn't the time to think about your plan.

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