Businesses across the U.S. have been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, and although the spread of COVID-19 may be slowing, we aren’t off the hook just yet.
We’re about a month into the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, which makes us wonder, “Is this the calm before the storm?” Hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) anticipates this season to be active, but thankfully, not as active as the 2020 season.
As employers focus on reopening their businesses safely and keeping the coronavirus pandemic at bay, they shouldn’t forget about hurricane preparedness, especially those with businesses located along the coasts of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Low-lying regions spanning from southeastern parts of Texas, through Florida and up the Atlantic coast, are most at risk for experiencing the impact of a hurricane, including wind damage and storm surge.
The best way to handle hurricane season and protect your business and employees is to prepare. Read on to learn about the hurricane preparedness guidance offered by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
1. Learn the hurricane lingo.Take time to educate yourself on hurricane terminology. Hurricanes are categorized by number based on factors related to risk. By understanding the classification system, you will be better prepared to make quick decisions as weather conditions change. Get to know the community emergency plans that are pertinent to where your business is located and where your workers live. It’s also a good idea to know about available shelters in the event you or your workers need to evacuate.
2. Create an evacuation plan.
Some businesses are required to have an Emergency Action Plan that meets certain requirements. If your business does, be sure you and your team are familiar with it. If not, invest some time creating an Emergency Action Plan for your business. A thorough evacuation plan should include the following:
- Conditions that will activate the plan
- Chain of command
- Emergency functions and who will perform them
- Specific evacuation procedures, including routes and exits
- Procedures for accounting for personnel, customers, and visitors
- Equipment for personnel
3. Build an emergency supply kit.
In the event your workers are involved in emergency response operations, you should prepare emergency supply kits. Even workers who aren’t involved in emergency operations will benefit from assembling kits for personal use. A basic emergency kit includes:
- Water (one gallon per person per day for at least three days for drinking and sanitation)
- Food (at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food)
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
- First aid kit
- Extra batteries
- Whistle (to signal for help)
- Dust mask (to help filter contaminated air)
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place)
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties (for personal sanitation)
- Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)
- Manual can opener (for food)
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
Download FEMA’s recommended supplies list here.
Although mother nature’s impact is out of our control, we can control how we plan for uncertain situations. Preparation is key to keeping your business and employees as safe as possible in the event of a hurricane. For additional guidance from OSHA and employee responsibilities in the event of a hurricane, click here.