Regional Priorities

Hurricane Preparedness Guidelines for Business

hurricane preparedness

In an effort to assemble the most critical information on what businesses can do to prepare in the event of a weather emergency, the Greater Washington Board of Trade convened a special conference call with top emergency management professionals. The audio from the call, along with additional information about proper preparedness and business continuity efforts for the region, can be found below.

Hurricane Sandy could cause significant disruption to business and property throughout Greater Washington. Severe flooding, strong winds and widespread outages may make for difficult days ahead. Transportation issues may affect commuter routes, bridges, tunnels, airports, METRO and AMTRAK. Access to workplaces, technology limitations and communication links may all be restricted.

Business Preparation Guidelines for Severe Weather

To assist area businesses in preparing for a wide spread disruption, the Greater Washington Board of Trade recommends the following considerations:

Create a task force

Companies, firms and organizations conducting business in and around Greater Washington should consider immediately establishing an internal task force to stay current on the latest news and issues concerning Hurricane Irene and to monitor your organization’s preparedness. This task force might include personnel from human resources, the executive office, finance and operations.

Develop a comprehensive plan for conducting business with multiple scenarios that address operations ranging from a reduced staff presence to no staff being able report for work. Assess the impact that disruption would have on staff, clients, suppliers, contractors, vendors, service providers and other dependencies up and down the line.

This task force should be organized to communicate throughout the duration of the disruption. Multiple communication channels should be arranged so that the task force can stay in contact.

A central location (physical and then virtual) should be created to assemble and review all pertinent documents and data needed to make informed decisions moving forward. Specific roles should be assigned and regular, orderly updates should be reviewed to determine adjustments and action steps appropriate to respond to new developments.

Clarify lines of authority and communication protocols. Develop or review company delegations of authority for emergency operations. Be clear about decision-making authority and how decisions will be relayed/announced – especially if there is an extended period of disruption. Develop or review orders of succession for emergency operations. 

create a plan

Develop a comprehensive plan for conducting business with multiple scenarios that address operations ranging from a reduced staff presence to no staff being able to report for work. Assess the impact that disruption would have on staff, clients, suppliers, contractors, vendors, service providers and other dependencies up and down the line.

Attention should be given to:

  • school closure implications,
  • transportation complications (Metro, commuter rail and buses, air travel)
  • building access,
  • security issues,
  • staffing needs,
  • transportation implications for providing or receiving goods and services,
  • procurement,
  • banking (including payroll, check processing and cash needs),
  • telecommunications demand (ability to work from home, connecting to office IT systems, etc.).  

Ensure that your employees understand their respective roles in the plan.  Assess the implications of the heightened security, road closures and congestion, as well as the possible disruption to mass transit. Also consider the following:

  • Understand what it means to be out of the office for an extended period of time (one week to two weeks).
  • Develop a best case/worst case scenario plan.
  • Review contracts (ones requiring you to perform certain responsibilities and ones where you require others to perform to certain expectations).
  • Review leave policies
  • Review travel policies, restrictions and current plans
  • Assess financial implications for your business including: cash flow, inventory, bills, receivables, budgets, contracts and upcoming major activities or events that carry financial obligations.

confirm and Validate communications

Update or validate your communication operations with key personnel.  Be sure that everyone understands how to get information from management if that becomes necessary. Update phone and email contact information.

Review policies and procedures associated with alternative working conditions or telecommuting. Confirm that everyone has the current information necessary to work from home and access central systems.

Consider creation of a regular company-wide voicemail and/or email update. Pre-arrange with a conference call company to establish a call-in number and service for company updates and assignments and, if needed, consider creation of an intranet or private website that employees and clients can access to provide for continuity of operations.

Address the risks for fraudulent communications and have a plan for ready response and corrections with accurate information.

Reach out now to staff, suppliers, customers and other key people to inform them of your contingency plans and appropriate contact information. Determine how to best reach customers with updates on company operations (advertisements, blast emails, etc.). 

Stay Current

Track weather, FEMA, Red Cross, Metro and other websites. Monitor news updates, briefing calls and email bulletins to stay current on the restrictions and announcements that may be coming rapidly.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for companies, firms and organizations as they prepare for the potential implications of a hurricane.  The Greater Washington Board of Trade has developed these guidelines through its Emergency Preparedness Committee as a reference as organizations create their own customized plans.

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