As last week's flooding on the East Coast reminded everyone, Mother Nature can wreak all kinds of havock. If a natural disaster strikes, is your business prepared to “weather the storm” and bounce back in a timely manner? Dave Mesko, senior director of marketing, Cincinnati-based Cintas Corporation says there are ways to prepare for severe storms and other disasters and minimize the impact of any damage. “No facility wants to close its doors for an extended period of time when recovering from severe weather or a natural disaster,” says Mesko. “It’s critical to have a plan in place ahead of an event to minimize damage and recovery time.”
Cintas suggests these five tips to help businesses prepare for devastating storms or other natural disasters:
1. Examine exterior glass for minor damage regularly. Glass exteriors take the brunt of severe weather and need to be properly maintained, cleaned and examined on a regular basis. Small issues such as scratches, built-up moisture and hairline fractures can often escalate into much larger problems and potentially hazardous conditions for customers and employees.
Facilities in hurricane-prone areas regularly impacted by storms should have an additional layer of coating, or shutters, to protect glass from high winds. These facilities should also have an emergency board-up plan in place when heavy storms approach.
2. Manage plumbing to prevent a sewage backup. Plumbing backflow, pipe blockages and clogs often occur in flood-damaged facilities. While most backups are isolated to restroom areas, a backup in another part of a facility can ruin merchandise, inventory and furnishings and force a business to close.
To prevent drain line buildup, facilities should implement a drain line maintenance program that helps keep drain lines free and clear and minimizes odor. If drain problems are more severe, professionals will need to clear the plumbing lines by extracting and jetting the pipes, which is a very costly alternative.
3. Examine front gates and doors daily during winter months. During winter months, frigid temperatures can cause front gates, doors and locks to malfunction, resulting in locked-out staff, business closures or a security risk if doors are unable to lock properly. To keep doors functioning correctly, inspect all parts of exterior-facing doors and gates and monitor for worn or damaged parts. If a de-icer doesn’t work, keep an emergency repair company on call that can fix the issue around the clock.
4. Prepare a well-stocked and easily accessible first-aid cabinet. Due to the unpredictability of storms, it’s important to have a well-stocked and easily accessible first aid cabinet on hand. It will allow staff and customers to treat minor wounds and potentially reduce the severity of an injury.
5. Create an emergency preparedness plan and update it monthly. Your facility should have a preparedness plan in place with instructions and checklists for a variety of emergency situations relevant to your geographic location, including snow and ice storms, floods, hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, tornadoes and power outages. To minimize panic and confusion and ensure employees know how to seek help during an emergency, review emergency action procedures during regular team meetings.
Your emergency repair provider contact list should be updated monthly to ensure vendors are still in business and can perform the scope of work highlighted in your plan. If you don’t already have an emergency repair provider in place, find a team that can provide 24-hour services such as boarding up windows and doors, electrical repairs, hazardous waste cleanup and storm preparation such as sandbag placement and professional storm cleanup and repairs.
While you can't control the weather, you can take steps to prepare for the worst and recover as quickly as possible when disaster strikes.