Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, one in four small businesses won’t reopen after a natural disaster. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) wants to help small businesses overcome the odds. With the peak of hurricane season just around the corner, IBHS has released a new “Commercial Ready: Hurricane” guide as a resource to help small business owners and commercial building owners improve hurricane preparedness.
“Commercial Ready: Hurricane” features guidance for seasonal preparedness projects and business continuity planning exercises, as well as last-minute steps to take before closing the doors and evacuating when a hurricane is approaching. The guide is designed to help business owners navigate the hurricane planning process and know what to ask a contractor when looking to make improvements to the building. Included in the guide are:
- Low-cost ways to get your business ready for hurricane season
- Improvement projects to get your business ready for hurricane season
- Last-minute hurricane preparation for your business
“Small businesses are the cornerstone of thriving communities. Preparedness and planning can reduce the impact of hurricanes and help get the doors back open after a storm, which is especially critical this year when many have already experienced disruptions,” says Chuck Miccolis, managing director of Commercial Lines at IBHS. “We’ve outlined the key steps to preparedness so small business and commercial building owners can prioritize tasks that are critical to limiting damage, making it possible to reopen faster.”
The “Commercial Ready: Hurricane” guide applies the latest research from IBHS engineers to reduce losses caused by wind and wind-driven rain during hurricanes. IBHS recreates realistic weather conditions inside its one-of-a-kind research facility to better understand how to prepare buildings for natural disasters.
“’Commercial Ready: Hurricane’ translates IBHS research into actionable projects for business owners to address the most vulnerable parts of their business and building,” adds Miccolis. Following are expanded tips on the three guidance areas listed above…
Low-Cost Ways To Get Ready
1. Inspect your roof
- Follow these inspection and maintenance recommendations to ensure your roof is in good condition.
2. Seal your windows
- Check the seals around your windows. Use silicone caulk to seal any cracks or gaps to keep rain out.
3. Inspect your roll-up, garage, and overhead doors
- Check the brackets that connect the door frame to the structure. Make sure they are tightly secured, not missing any bolts or nuts, and are not broken.
- Make sure there are no major dents, damage, warping, or rusting.
- Check for a wind label. If there are no labels, contact a commercial door contractor to determine if you have the proper door for your area.
4. Secure outdoor equipment, signage, inventory, and other loose items
- Consider pallets, tables and chairs, patio umbrellas, benches, and other moveable items.
- Make sure sign connections have no missing bolts or screws and are free from rust.
5. Trim your trees
- Keep all trees trimmed and away from the roof and building. Trees near or overhanging your building can damage the roof, damage the building, and clog drains.
6. Check your drainage
- Ensure all outdoor drains are clear of debris, especially around shipping and receiving areas.
- Be sure roof drains are clear.
- Extend downspouts away from the building to divert water.
7. Review your insurance policy
- Know what your insurance policy covers — and what it doesn’t.
- Store your insurance agent’s contact information in your phone.
8. Understand your flood threat
- Look up your property on your local flood map by visiting FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center or by contacting your city or county government to understand your flood risk. (Note: Flooding can occur outside of high-risk flood areas.)
- Know the base flood elevation (BFE) for your property and determine whether the elevation of your building’s lowest floor is above or below the BFE.
9. Have a plan
- Use OFB-EZ (Open for Business-EZ) as a guide to help your business plan for any type of business disruption, so you can quickly re-open and resume operations following a disaster.
10. Get reliable weather information and alerts
- Stay alert to help you and your employees stay safe. Purchase a NOAA weather radio for your business.
- Find a reliable source for hurricane updates. Pay attention to hurricane forecasts from the National Hurricane Center (NHC). Follow the NHC on Facebook or Twitter and tune in to local news often.
If you’re renovating or looking for ways to make your building stronger against hurricanes, consider these important upgrades.
1. Strengthen and repair your roof
- Discuss these affordable roof repair projects with your roofing contractor to extend the life of your low-slope commercial roof.
2. Upgrade to impact-rated windows
- Stronger windows can better withstand high winds and flying debris. Look for windows labeled as impact resistant.
3. Replace a rollup, garage, or overhead door with a wind-rated door
- Talk to a contractor or engineer to determine what is appropriate for your location.
4. Purchase hurricane shutters
- Plan ahead and purchase hurricane shutters (code-conforming aluminum paneling) to cover your windows if a hurricane nears. Find what’s right for your business with the IBHS Opening Protection Guide. (Note: Plywood should only be used in place of shutters as a last-minute resort when tropical weather is imminent. If plywood must be used, be sure it’s at least ¾ inch thick. Additionally, taping windows provides no protection and wastes time.)
5. Install a backup power generator
- Be sure to operate and maintain generators in accordance with manufacturer recommendations.
6. Check packaged terminal air conditioners (PTAC) units
- Inspect all units to make sure they are properly installed to resist wind-driven rain. Leaks from these units can cause costly damage.
- Ensure all units are installed per manufacturer guidelines, typically tilted 2° toward the outside of the building, and are correctly caulked between the outside of the building and the sleeve.
Last-Minute Hurricane Prep
When a hurricane threatens, follow these last-minute steps to reduce damage to your building.
1. When a hurricane watch is issued, put your Business Continuity Plan into action
- Begin last-minute preparations. Note that employees may need time to prep their home as well.
2. Install your hurricane shutters
- Plywood should only be used as a last resort. If you’re forced to use plywood, be sure it’s at least ¾ inch thick.
3. Close rollup, garage, and overhead doors ALL THE WAY
- If your door is not a wind-rated door, there are ways to reinforce it temporarily with a brace.
4. Secure outdoor equipment, signage, inventory, and loose items
- Unsecured objects like pallets, materials, tables, chairs, and signs can become flying debris, causing damage to your building or surrounding structures.
5. Check your drainage again
- Ensure all outdoor drains are clear and free of debris.
The mission of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) is to conduct objective, scientific research to identify and promote effective actions that strengthen homes, businesses, and communities against natural disasters and other causes of loss.
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