Approximately U.S.$22.9 billion in damages were experienced by business and residential property owners in 16 states and Puerto Rico from Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne(a) during 2004, but the majority of commercial losses could have reportedly been avoided had business owners properly protected their facilities.
With 2005 predicted to be another “above-average” Atlantic hurricane season, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Affiliated FM, a commercial property insurer and loss prevention provider serving medium-sized companies, reports that while this year’s hurricanes may be inevitable, resulting losses are not.
“Small- and medium-sized businesses are often the most susceptible to major, long-term losses from natural catastrophes since they tend to derive revenues from a single facility, product line or service,” said Mike Lebovitz, vice president and manager of Affiliated FM. “Even in the event business owners are fully insured, any disruption can lead to lost future revenues as customers are forced to look for alternative sources or suppliers.”
While Category 4 and Category 5 hurricanes trigger the greatest alarm, lesser hurricanes can still lead to serious damage for small- and medium-sized businesses. Category 3 hurricanes, for example, dislodge tree limbs and poorly constructed signs, produce storm surges of nine to 12 feet and generate winds capable of damaging rooftops, windows and doors.
Fortunately, property damage can be prevented or minimized by following an organized plan of action before, during and after a hurricane. In addition to boarding up windows, anchoring outdoors assets and checking back-up generators, business owners should consider taking the following measures:
— Form an Emergency Response Team (ERT) and arrange backup communications, such as two-way radios, between onsite and offsite members
— Shut down operations that depend on outside power sources
— Prepare for storm-related leakage and flooding by protecting computers and machinery with tarpaulins and stocking sandbags, squeegees and absorbents
— Shut off gas and possible flame sources and remove flammable liquids from critical areas to prevent fire
— Ensure onsite ERT members have proper supplies and equipment such as drinkable water, nonperishable food, basic medical equipment and flashlights
— Patrol the facilities continuously to check for roof leaks, pipe breakage, fire or structural damage as well as keep an eye on any boilers that must remain on line
— Turn off all electrical switches to prevent a surge upon reactivation
— Constantly monitor weather conditions so that onsite ERT members can retreat to a designated safe area during the height of the storm
— Survey for safety hazards such as live wires, leaking gas, flammable liquids, poisonous gases and damage to foundations or underground piping
— Begin salvaging efforts in and around the facility as soon as possible to prevent further damage
— Visually check the integrity of large current circuit boards before restarting main electrical distribution systems
— Call in all offsite ERT members and contractors to begin repairs
“Without a formal action plan that addresses all critical issues of a given facility, business owners risk losing everything they’ve worked so hard to build. Thankfully, it’s never too late to start,” added Lebovitz.
To view additional windstorm preparation tips, visit the resources section of www.affiliatedfm.com.
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