Cold weather, ice, snow and blizzards can make winter months dangerous. Keeping a business open during winter emergencies is important too. Now is the time to prepare for power outages and reduce the impact dangerous winter weather can cause. Whether it be through strategic planning, outside maintenance or emergency preparedness measures, we’ve got you covered to prepare for this winter season. Read on to learn how to prepare for the upcoming winter season.
What is winterization?
Preparing your home, business, family and friends to handle rough winter conditions is the process of winterization. When most people winterize, they may think of home maintenance, such as closing off an irrigation system or tuning a home’s thermostat. But, winterization also means ensuring businesses, schools and people can keep their daily lives running during harsh winter conditions. There are certain precautions you can take to ensure you don’t get caught in an emergency.
How do you plan for the upcoming winter season?
The ice storm that damaged Texas in 2021 was the costliest in US history since 1950, with over $50 billion in insured losses. And, although many have learned to work remotely, closing operations for a few days is impossible for some businesses. To help minimize damage and lost time and money due to winter storm damage, prepare by first evaluating the inside and outside of the building.
Inside the building
Snow, freezing rain and high winter storm winds can severely impact many businesses. In addition, many see a spike in sales during the holiday season. So, to keep customers happy, staff must be able to deliver the same products and excellent service when winter weather creates disruptions. Therefore, preparing your valuable team and services for winter emergencies is essential.
To maintain the proper functioning of the business, look for ways to help prevent a shutdown during extreme winter weather by considering the following tips:
- Create a staffing plan for employees that can’t make it to work due to longer commutes, school closings or road closures.
- Reevaluate the business’ insurance plan. What coverage do you need to recover the time and money lost if you must close the company due to winter storm damage?
- Schedule a seasonal HVAC system check and tune-up to ready your heating systems for harsh conditions.
- Test that lights, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are fully operational and charged.
- Evaluate any outside services your facility uses and how these will impact the business if unavailable. For example, do you rely on a mail service that may not deliver in snowy or icy conditions?
Outside the building
Note any areas outside the building that might become dangerous once a winter storm hits. Some things to look for are:
- Walkways and sidewalks could ice over, making it more likely for employees to slip and fall.
- Power lines can fall during an ice storm and cause damage to buildings and cars.
- Parking lots that require snow removal during a heavy snowfall.
Emergency preparedness measures for small businesses
Once you have evaluated the inside and outside of the building and formulated a plan, it’s time to prepare for whatever winter weather has in store.
Here’s a handy checklist to help ensure you’re plan will work and your team is ready:
Assemble the right team
Now’s the time to get everyone on the same page. Who will put the emergency plan into action? This will likely be admins, the management or the security team. Be sure they understand the plan and who manages each task.
Tune up and update equipment
Begin fixing any issues that may come up during a winter emergency now. Make sure all vehicles and snow removal equipment are in good working order. Winterize fleet cars and trucks and other vehicles. If your company employs a contractor for these services, ensure they’re fully prepared for any predicted scenarios and that their contact in your organization has a backup. Create a maintenance plan for every building. Inspect and update all HVAC and other building systems like fire detection, communications and power.
Stock and distribute emergency kits
You never know if and when you will need emergency supplies. Start buying necessary supplies such as salt for sidewalks, blankets, towels, emergency kits and possibly a generator. Additionally, hire any services you need now, such as a snow remover, so that contractors are ready to go when you need them. Create and distribute emergency kits for the office, home and car. Consider creating one that sits inside a branded backpack for portability.
Track winter weather impacting your operations and employees
You don’t need to worry about every potential blizzard, only the ones threatening your employees and facilities. Stay current with weather reports and heed any advisories issued by authorities.
Conduct practice drills
Your plan should include directions for people about where and when to evacuate and seek shelter. But, to make sure everyone really knows what to do in an emergency, you must practice. Hold regular drills and review exit and evacuation plans, so weaknesses are identified and addressed well in advance. Assure all your emergency exits and evacuation routes are well-marked.
Communication during an emergency
One of the most essential pieces to a successful winter crisis response plan is your emergency communications. Provide response teams with fast, secure communications capabilities. Response teams need a safe and reliable means of communicating in real-time to confirm action plans and modify them as needed.
A mass notification system is one way to ensure employees quickly receive timely information about weather conditions that affect their work day. It also gives response teams a complete picture of what’s happening and how it may impact the business in real-time. Armed with this information, they can make faster and smarter decisions for a quicker recovery.
An effective mass notification system should:
- Send alerts through multiple channels, including SMS, voice, email and desktop.
- Use cloud-based technology so communication still happens when cell phone towers are down or overloaded.
- Deliver geo-targeted and time-sensitive alerts to employees, students, customers and suppliers.
- Integrate with your internal business applications and sync your employee directory regularly, so you know your message will always get to the right people.
- Integrate with the National Weather Service (NWS) to deliver an advanced warning of severe weather
- Two-way chat so response teams can collaborate from their mobile devices and an audit trail to gain insight on improving for the next storm or power outage.
- Translating messages into multiple languages is a bonus, especially if you have multilingual staff or students.
You don’t want to be left out in the cold when the snow blows in. So, look at the essential considerations for keeping your people, places and property safe during winter. Creating a preparation plan and collecting supplies are the first steps to preparing for winter-weather emergencies.
Communicating during an emergency is at the core of winter weather preparedness. Designate the people in charge of the emergency plan and practice, practice, practice. You want to iron out any wrinkles well before the mercury drops.
Finally, communicating the emergency response plan to employees minimizes business disruptions during a winter storm. Employees must be kept regularly informed of important weather and business updates. A mass notification system is a great way to employ your preparedness plan and communicate emergency updates quickly and effectively. These technologies can send notifications via text, email, or voicemail, automating the alert process. Additionally, the communication system should use cloud-based technology when cell phone towers are down or overloaded.
Regroup Mass Notification provides several smart integrations that auto-alert your entire network during severe weather events. We can show you how to harness a mass notification protocol to protect your organization during emergencies and improve your routine communications.
Schedule a free demonstration of the Regroup platform and learn more about ensuring the safety of your team and business.