The impact of a weather-related outage runs deeper than many organizations realize. Obviously, there’s a danger posed to staff, supplies, and structures, but decision makers often fail to account for every potential weather event and every conceivable problem.
Though most businesses have a preparedness strategy in place, these strategies are particularly vulnerable to complacency. Organizations that don’t have disaster-related experience or are too far removed from their last such instance often take a half-hearted — if that — approach to disaster planning. They hesitate to use any resources to revamp an older plan or practice the current one, meaning protections and promises fall short when bad weather inevitably strikes.
Because no entity is immune to the effects of unexpected weather, the best bet is to always maintain a preparedness strategy. By planning and preparing in advance for this eventuality, it’s possible to limit the impact weather has on costs, infrastructure, and — above all else — human safety.
By leaving no stone unturned in developing a robust preparedness strategy and disaster plan, it better positions your company to bounce back from unexpected weather occurrences and fill any gaps competitors might leave unattended.
Patch the Problems in Your Prep
Any preparedness strategy put in place needs to be as comprehensive and cohesive as possible if it’s going to offer much value. Watch out for these common mistakes, and learn how to overcome them if and when they appear:
1. Half-stepping the process: The “Climate Change Preparedness and the Small Business Sector” study notes that just 43 percent of small businesses plan for disaster relief. That said, companies that think they have a preparedness plan in place may really only have a loose collection of notes and contact numbers.
In an urgent situation, that kind of thrown-together protocol is incapable of providing any real guidance or clarity, particularly if the plan hasn’t been reviewed or updated. The biggest thing that can make a preparedness strategy more useful is to base it around business continuity.
Focus on the kinds of incidents that could interrupt operations to determine exactly what you need to do to carry on with business as usual. Prioritize action items, responsibilities, and sequences, and appoint someone to oversee your emergency operations. It’s not unreasonable to seek professional advice from a consultant well-versed in common and not-so-common points of failure and specific solutions.
And don’t forget to practice. Running through the plan will reveal items and processes that no amount of pre-planning could anticipate.
2. Taking faulty forecasts at face value: Early action is an essential part of preparedness. Monitoring the weather is one of the best ways to stay aware of the type of severe weather that could take your business offline. But if you’re relying on widely available free forecasts shared via an app or a website, be aware that they only provide a general idea of the weather over a large swath of a region or county.
Because these apps typically rely solely on numerical computer modeling and aren’t supervised by a team of meteorologists, they can often be drastically wrong. Making big decisions with confidence is difficult, if not impossible.
Rather than use a forecast created for broad public consumption, base your decision on weather data tailored specifically to your exact location. Professional weather forecasting services can give you timely, accurate, and immediate insights into the weather at your exact location.
3. Disregarding the threat entirely: To paraphrase former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, “There are known knowns…and known unknowns.” It’s difficult to account for every circumstance or situation. Lots of preparedness strategies focus on worst-case scenarios such as huge floods, widespread ice storms, or outrageous wind speeds that take power grids offline for extended periods. But they overlook smaller and stranger weather incidents that can cause just as much disruption, such as a single lightning strike or a localized heavy rain event.
Perhaps this weather event would be near the top of the strange list: a heavy summertime downpour washing debris from a construction site into the adjacent sewer and blocking normal drainage. In a real instance, the blockage caused sewage to back up into a nearby office building, taking the building’s water offline for two days. How could this affect your business, and is such a known unknown addressed in your disaster plan?
A study by Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty estimates a 30-minute power outage costs medium- and large-sized industrial clients $15,709; extend that blackout to a full eight-hour day, and those same companies are on the hook for nearly $100,000. That’s a lot of money to lose over something as simple as not taking proper weather precautions or not devising a disaster plan that could provide guidance in such a situation.
It’s never easy to motivate your organization to invest in the unexpected, but a lack of preparation directly compounds the size of the disruption. If your preparedness strategy puts you at a disadvantage, put the fix in place before the next storm starts to take shape.