Every business has to prepare for the worst. Those that don’t may never fully recover from a disaster. However, not all disasters are created equal and not all businesses are at risk for every kind of disaster. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into hurricanes and coastal storms specifically, their potential impact, and how you can ensure that your business can keep operating, even if a natural disaster occurs.
Hurricanes and coastal storms wreak havoc through a combination of high winds and heavy rain. They may also be accompanied by surging tides that flood-affected areas with salt water. The impact of these categories of natural disaster are three-fold:
- Direct damage to operating facilities due to high winds, flooding, and objects that become high-speed projectiles capable of smashing through windows, roofs and other structural elements
- Extended power outages, road closures, and other lasting damages can put a business facility out of commission for a week or more
- Regional impacts to customers, suppliers, and business partners - as well as the homes of your employees
The Numbers: About a dozen named storms occur along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts each year. Major disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, underscore the potential damage that can result when such events strike population centers. Climate change may be increasing the frequency and intensity of these events.
Warning times: Businesses usually have advance warning of an approaching storm. However, because storm paths are notoriously difficult to predict, these warnings can often be false alarms. This leads some businesses to hesitate to respond to storm warnings. In the event of a regional disaster, in addition to making sure their own operations continue uninterrupted, businesses should be prepared to help their nearby customers and partners get through the crisis.
Hurricanes and coastal storms can put a data center out of commission for a day, a week, or permanently. All businesses, especially those operating in storm or hurricane prone areas, should be prepared for anything.
Set up the following to prepare for a storm:
- Continuous off-site backup of data, applications, and server images.
- The ability to restore IT operations in the cloud and/or at a site sufficiently further inland from the coast to be unaffected by the storm. This restoration may require evacuation of key IT personnel out of the storm so that they can continue to work remotely from their laptops even if the area’s mobile data services are interrupted.
- Website updates that alert your customers and partners about storm preparations - along with frequent post-storm updates so that visitors can track the recovery process.
Your business continuity plans should include:
- The availability of a sufficiently distant inland facility—along with any temporary housing necessary for key employees whose homes are also in the path of the storm.
- Internal communications to keep employees updated on resource availability, recovery status, etc.
- Any necessary third-party contracting for shipping/receiving, mail processing, duplicating, etc. The ability to restore IT operations in the cloud and/or at a site sufficiently further inland from the coast to be unaffected by the storm.
- Communications in advance with your local/regional customers and suppliers who may also be impacted by the storm, including alternative mobile contact numbers.
- Pre-determined policies regarding order turnaround times, invoice processing, scheduled service visits, and other activities likely to be affected by the storm.
- Direct servicing of customers by supply-chain partners, where appropriate and feasible.
- Ensure your policy covers all aspects of business continuity, rather than just damage and outage impacts. To avoid confusion, contact your insurers in advance to confirm exactly what steps each party will take in the storm’s immediate aftermath.
To learn more about how natural disasters like this one can impact your business and/or your clients, and how to prepare for the worst, check out the Natural Disaster Survival Guide for Businesses.