Many people enjoy the spectacle of a thunderous storm or a ferocious cyclone – just not when their property, safety and livelihoods are at threat.
The damage these storms inflict can have a strong impact financially on both families and businesses.
But while homes can be rebuilt, businesses impacted by storms can suffer more serious, longer term consequences. This can include loss of market share, productivity and profitability.
Just to give you an idea of how much storms can cost businesses, these are the total insurance claims of businesses (according to the Insurance Council of Australia) from three of the most commercially damaging recent storms in Australia:
- Brisbane Supercell Storm (November 2014) – $513 million
- Sydney Hailstorm (ANZAC Day 2015) – $302 million
- Queensland’s Cyclone Marcia (February 2015) – $190 million
The losses suffered by some small businesses are sometimes so severe that they’re unable to recover. Cyclone Marcia, for instance, forced an award winning holiday business in central Queensland to permanently close.
5 ways businesses can prepare for storms
Through its ‘Get Ready’ campaign for this storm season, the Queensland Government has suggested five ways businesses can mitigate their risks and prepare for whatever the sky has to throw at them.
In order to be prepared for storms, the information that businesses should have includes:
- List of employee contact details
- Emergency services contacts (who can warn about dangerous weather, road conditions and closures)
- List of customer and supplier details
- Product lists and specifications
- Latest stock and equipment inventory
- How you will be contacted
Back up important documents, reports and data
Important documents and reports such as insurance policies and financial/banking records should be scanned and saved onto a memory stick or external drive. All computer data needs to be backed up as well – consider investing in cloud storage for this.
Have the right equipment
Businesses should have all of the following equipment handy during storm season:
- First aid kit and manual
- Battery powered radio, torch and spare batteries
- Phone and photographic/video devices (to help make insurance claims)
- Masking tape
- Plastic sheeting
- Personal protective equipment (e.g. gloves, masks, safety glasses)
- Waterproof bags (for valuables)
Have an evacuation plan
In case a natural disaster occurs during business hours, an evacuation plan is required. Without a pre-organised procedure, confusion and panic can set in and put you and your employees in even more danger. In order to develop an evacuation plan, the Queensland Government suggests these key steps:
- Create a clear chain of command. Decide who is responsible for authorising an evacuation.
- Decide what circumstances would trigger an evacuation.
- Work out both primary and secondary evacuation routes and exits and create floor plans that feature these. Post these in places where they are easy to see.
- Develop procedures for dealing with any hazardous materials or shutting down critical operations.
- Make regular drills part of your business to help familiarise staff.
Write a continuity plan
Creating your own professionally prepared continuity plan can help enable your business to continue to operate after a natural disaster.
In their business storm ready video, the Queensland Government recommended businesses write out and structure their continuity plan like this:
Distribution List and Associated documents
- Who is to receive a copy of the plan
- Other associated plans (such as your business plan)
- Policy and procedures
- Broad description of the plan to be executed including priorities, opportunities and assumptions.
- An overall picture of what is to occur in order to maintain business continuity.
- A clear statement of the objectives of the plan
- List and define the terms, definitions and acronyms that are used in the document
- Include identified risks, their likelihood and their consequences
Business Impact Analysis
- Comprehensive list of business activities
- Their effect on operations
- Resource requirements
- Critical activity priority list
Incident Response Plan
- Document the tasks that will be required to manage the initial phase of an incident and the individual responsible for each task
- Statement of circumstances when you place should be invoked
- List of personnel authorised to invoke the plan
- Set out the process for mobilising and standing down relevant teams
Teams, Communications & Contact Lists
- List all personnel with an explanation of roles
- List all key stakeholders, priorities and categories and communication modes
- Reporting arrangements
- Control and coordination arrangements
- Internal & external contact lists
- Emergency services contact lists
- Outline the steps you will need to take to get your business running again after your incident or crisis
Testing and maintenance
- Outline the training requirements needed for carrying out the response and recovery activities
- A schedule outlining how often drills and exercises are to be conducted.
- Look at when and how the program will be tested, reviewed and evaluated
Visit the CCIQ Storm Ready webpage for more resources and information for businesses including webinars, online resources and natural disaster fact sheets.