Get Your Business Ready for Winter Weather with These Tips
It’s hard to deny that winter is coming, especially in the areas of the U.S. where the winter weather has already presented itself. For the next few months, much of the country will be dealing with winter conditions that include snow, ice, cold temperatures, wind, and slush. Winter weather, especially snowstorms, are known to be disruptive to daily life which makes preparing for winter storms very important. A major storm can even disrupt the activities of a business which is why every business should have a plan in place to deal with winter weather before the winter season arrives.
Winter conditions, including snowstorms, ice, and sub-zero temperatures, can make the commute to work difficult or dangerous. If there is a blizzard, a business may be affected for up to several days if the employees cannot make it to work or certain business activities cannot be done. Establishing a plan to deal with winter weather can help your business keep your employees safe and either keep your business activities going through the storm or get back to your normal business activities much quicker. Good winter preparedness can also protect your building from winter storm damage.
If your business does not have a formal winter storm preparedness plan in place, create a plan using the following tips. Once the plan is created, you should share the details of the plan with your employees to ensure that everyone knows what to do if you experience severe winter weather.
Evaluate the Risks to your Business
Businesses will be affected by winter weather and storms differently depending on the type of business, the location of the office or building, and where your employees live. For instance, a retail store, a construction company, and a business that works out of an office will each be affected differently if there is a snowstorm. The first thing you need to do for your business is evaluate the unique risks your business faces if there is a blizzard or dangerously cold temperatures. You must consider the commute of your employees, the potential damage to the building, and snow and ice removal for the sidewalks and parking lot around your business.
Property Damage Risks
Offices, warehouses, and commercial buildings are at risk for damage from winter weather, even if there isn’t a snowstorm. You must take care of the following to help prevent property damage during the winter:
- Roof: Ice and snow can put a lot of stress on your roof, leading to leaks or structural damage. Make sure you have the roof of the building inspected to ensure it is in good enough condition to withstand the wind, snow, and ice during the winter.
- Pipes: Freezing temperatures can cause water within the pipes to freeze which often leads to a pipe burst. When this happens, hundreds of gallons of water can spill out into the building and cause significant water damage. Make sure all water pipes within the building are properly insulated to prevent frozen and burst pipes.
- HVAC system: During the cold winter months, it is very important that your HVAC system is in good repair and running efficiently. Hire a professional to inspect your HVAC system before the winter so you do not lose heat during a cold stretch.
Protecting your employees is the most important aspect of a good winter preparedness plan. Businesses should always make the safety of their employees their highest priority during adverse winter weather. The following tips will help you keep your employees protected:
- Slip and fall accidents: Slip and fall accidents are very common in winter conditions and can lead to serious injuries. On average, more than 34,000 slip and fall accidents occur at the work place each year due to winter conditions. These accidents will not only lead to injuries, but also law suits. Make sure snow and ice are cleared from the property and put a mat inside the door to reduce the amount of snow and ice being dragged inside. You should also keep the floors clean and in good condition to help prevent falls.
- Winter storm kits: It is important for your office and employees to have a winter storm kit ready in case there is a severe storm. Advise your employees to have an emergency kit at home and in their cars. Emergency kits for the car should include survival items such as a cell phone and charger, shovel, ice scraper, flashlight, batteries, food, water, blankets, first aid kit, jumper cables, road salt, and flares among other items.
- Work from home: If your employees can complete their normal business activities remotely, allow them to work from home during adverse weather. Make sure your employees understand in what type of weather they are allowed to work from home and let them know as soon as possible when they can work from home.
Severe winter storms can take a business by surprise. The last thing your business should be doing when a storm hits is scrambling to initiate your winter storm procedures. You need to assign responsibilities so that when a storm does hit, everyone will immediately take action to deal with the situation.
You will need to determine third party responsibilities as well as internal responsibilities during winter storms. You should have a third-party snow removal professional lined up as well as a restoration professional that can respond to structural damage or water damage caused by a storm. If necessary, work with the property manager or landlord to make these third-party arrangements. You should also work out an adverse weather plan with any third-party vendors that you do business with.
You also need to assign internal responsibilities among your employees. Someone should be responsible for keeping your employees updated on the weather and any final decisions about coming into work or working from home. You should also assign an employee to check on the building and equipment when there is a major storm. If a snowstorm hits during the work day, each step of your emergency plan must be assigned so that the plan can be carried out with as little delay and confusion as possible.
Make a Clear Plan
Now that you understand the risks of adverse winter weather on your business and know who will be assigned certain responsibilities, you must make a clear plan to prepare for winter storms. It is important for this plan to be clear and concise, so your employees can jump into action without any confusion or hesitation.
Decide under what conditions you will either close the office, have employees work from home, or send employees home early. Create a checklist of procedures for each type of winter emergency that include actions for before, during, and after the storm and assign an employee for each task. Your company should also hold exercises to practice the winter weather emergency plan. This will not only help your employees become more familiar with the plan, but also help you identify problems with the plan so it can be adjusted before there is a storm.
Keep Communication Open
When a winter storm is imminent, you will need to quickly be in contact with your employees and third parties that are part of your emergency plan. Weather conditions and updates are known to change by the minute, so real time communication is important. You need to have open communication with your vendors, insurance company, landlords, employees, and customers if possible about how the weather will impact your business and how you plan to proceed.
An important part of your communication plan is choosing how to reach everyone with real time updates. The method you choose to use may depend on the nature of your business. Emails may not be the best choice for retail workers or workers out in the field but may be effective for office employees who spend more time on their computers. Texts are effective for most professions as everyone has a cell phone and texts can make it through when the service is poor. It is best to communicate over several different channels to ensure that everyone involved is properly informed in real time.
Keep Your Business Protected This Winter
Winter storms can cause property damage and confusion and even put your employees at risk. Having a complete and detailed preparation plan in place will help you protect your employees and your business and minimize the interruption to your business activities. If your business does sustain damaged due to a winter storm, including water damage, make sure you call a professional right away for water damage restoration services. These professionals quickly get the damage restored so you can get back to business.