The persistent threat of severe weather is a reality no matter where you live. It is important to know how you can prepare and how you can react during and following a severe weather event.
Keep Your People and Your Property Safe
Follow this 3-Step Action Plan
Extreme weather can strike at any time. To make sure you're ready for whatever Mother Nature has in store this summer, follow this 3-Step Action Plan. It tells you how to protect your buildings, grounds, people and property from unnecessary risks.
STEP 1: WHAT TO DO BEFORE THE STORM
Perhaps the most important part of your plan is being prepared. What you do before a storm strikes is critical. Here's what you should be doing before violent weather happens:
Make the Most of the Off-Season:
Look at previous years' weather patterns to get an idea of what to expect in the coming months. Use historical data on weather websites and go back several years. Or refer to the online ZIP Code Tool from disastersafety.org to see what the risk exposure is like in your area. Another useful resource is the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Flood Maps (https://msc.fema.gov/portal). You can quickly tell if you're in a flood-prone zone or not.
Activate Your Emergency Plan:
Your organization should have a set plan of action ready to go when needed. In that plan, you should define roles and responsibilities for key personnel. Decide who will be your team leader, communications coordinator, assembly point manager, first aid supervisor, etc. Also, before the storm season gets underway, prepare your organization's emergency website messages and telephone recordings, and document all staff phone numbers. You will also want to communicate what your closure details may be. Tell staff when the facility will close and when you expect to reopen.
Create Basic Life Safety Tasks:
Having evacuation and shelter procedures in place will let people know where to go in an emergency. You should also consider training key personnel in basic medical procedures like CPR and have equipment (in working order) readily available.
A safety kit is easy to assemble and it's invaluable in an emergency. While your organization may already have first aid kits on hand, emergency safety kits should be more comprehensive. For starters, they should include non-perishable foods, plenty of bottled water, blankets, clothing, flashlights and batteries. When in doubt, always overprepare.
STEP 2: WHAT TO DO DURING THE STORM
When violent storms descend on your area, time becomes a critical factor. In just a matter of minutes, damaging wind, hail, lightning or rainwater can engulf your facility. In this situation, remain calm and follow these steps:
Your number-one priority in any emergency is to keep people safe. Start activating a "call tree" (you call two people, they call two people, etc.) to let members know where you are and what the status of your building is. You might also want to designate time for conference calls to give situation overviews and updates.
Safeguard Your Data and Equipment:
Unplug computers, copiers, routers, wireless devices and shut down other electrical equipment if you are experiencing lightning or high winds. In those conditions, electricity can suddenly surge and damage your computer's circuit boards. Also, be sure to close perimeter doors to protect wind-borne objects from damaging computer monitors.
Move Your Valuables and Documents to a Safe Location:
If you have any valuables or documents on-site that could be exposed to water or wind damage, move them to an interior space in your building. Be sure to put important documents in a high and dry place to avoid being damaged by floodwaters.
STEP 3: WHAT TO DO AFTER THE STORM
When the skies clear, the storm subsides and you've gotten all the emergency issues resolved, you will enter the "recovery" stage. It is critical that you and your team assess how well your safety action plan worked. Are there improvements you could make? Should you consult with industry experts and learn how to better prepare? Either way, here are a few post-storm steps you'll want to take that can help refine your process, no matter how well you think it went:
Assess Damage and Evaluate Safety Procedures:
Designate an official from your organization who has the authority and the expertise to return to the site and assess what the extent of the damage is. You may need to contact local municipal authorities if the damage is extensive. If the building is deemed safe, you can give the "all clear" and begin a staggered reopening of your facility.
As soon as possible, communicate with all members and provide a status report. Let them know the condition of the facility and if any damage has occurred. If possible, protect the building and prevent any further damage. If you can stop a leak or clear drains to help water subside, it could be beneficial. You'll also want to take a careful inventory and note what items are missing.
If your facility suffered significant damage, you'll need to contact repair professionals to assess the damage. They may also be able to tell you how prepared your organization was and how well you responded to the storm. Was there something you could have done better?
Follow Up with Church Mutual
After any emergency, know that the experts and professionals at Church Mutual are ready to help get your organization back up and running as quickly as possible. Contact your area representative to schedule an appointment.
FIVE FINAL THOUGHTS
- Weather is unpredictable. Always prepare for the worst. Summer storms are known to behave with "rapid intensification," which means they can strike without much warning.
- Make sure key members are trained and know your emergency response procedures. Also, everyone should have a backup and make sure the backup people understand their role and tasks.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. All the best plans and procedures in the world are worthless if they aren't communicated.
- Practice makes perfect. Whether you conduct full-scale drills or tabletop demos, knowing what to do and where to go is the key to a successful preparedness plan.
- Emergency supplies are for emergencies only. They are not a convenient resource to use when your daily supplies run out.