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Six Steps to Prepare Your Business for Severe Weather Damage

Severe weather can occur at any time of year in the U.S., but is most prevalent in spring and summertime. It’s always important to take precautions and have a disaster recovery plan in place to minimize damage from these events.

Why prepare for tornadoes and other severe weather?

On average,1,000 tornadoes touch down in the U.S. each year, a higher number than anywhere else in the world. These storms are dangerous and quite unpredictable.

Despite the United States’ high tornado numbers, most business owners think such a storm will never occur, let alone damage their business. The odds of a tornado appearing in your area and crossing paths with your building seem slim.

In reality, tornadoes are not all that uncommon and account for the second-highest percentage of total catastrophic losses in the U.S., after hurricanes and tropical storms. The best thing you can do for your business is have a plan in advance for fast recovery. According to FEMA, anywhere from 40-60% of small businesses close permanently after a disaster. Among businesses that are closed for at least five days, 90% fail within a year.

Severe weather preparedness for businesses

There are many tips to help you prepare for severe weather damage and recovery in advance. We’ve compiled our top six here.

1. Inspect and reinforce your roof

If applicable, inspect your building’s roof to make sure it is sealed tight. The industry rule of thumb is that a commercial-grade roof should be inspected twice per year. If you do not have access to your roof, ask your building manager for dated records of roof inspection. You can also request an updated roof inspection.

Additionally, consider reinforcing the roof with hurricane clips. Despite the name, these clips work for tornadoes and other high-wind storms as well and can help prevent the roof from lifting off of the home.

2. Minimize debris around your building

Keep trees, branches, and bushes trimmed to minimize debris damage. In high winds, they could fall on personnel, the building, walls, roof, or power lines. Again, you can also request that your building manager make these repairs and trims if you notice risky debris.

This rule of thumb also extends to loose or damaged building components that can come free, such as pipes, gutters, siding shingles, roof, soffit, fascia, brickwork, and chimneys. Inspect the exterior every six months and repair anything at risk of becoming debris.

If you keep patio furniture or outdoor decor around your building, be sure to bring it inside if you know a severe storm or high winds are headed your way.

3. Meet building codes

Structures that meet code requirements and stay up to date on repairs are more likely to survive natural disasters like tornadoes. If you aren’t sure whether or not your building is up to code, hire an expert to perform an inspection of your windows, doors, roofing, gables, and connections.

4. Know how to turn off utilities

Locate your building’s electricity, gas, and water shut-off valves and know how to operate them quickly and correctly.

  • Electrical: Tornadoes may cause electrical damage. Depending on the size of your building, there should be a main shut-off easily accessible. For businesses, these panels are generally industrial and a bit more complex than a residential fuse box. Make sure you know where your shut-off is and how to disconnect it quickly.

  • Water: If a water line breaks, you should also know how to shut off the building’s water. There is usually more than one location for water shut-off valves, one in the building and one outside of your building closer to the street, sidewalk or parking lot. Locate both and know how to turn both off and on in case of emergency.

  • Gas: Gas leaks after a storm are serious and must be handled immediately if it is safe to do so. The smell of gas and a slight hissing sound are indications of a leak. Gas shut-off valves will be located outside of your building. Locate yours and ensure you know how to turn it on and off.

5. Secure large furniture and appliances

Be sure to anchor down large pieces of indoor furniture to walls to keep them from falling or sliding and causing damage. You can also use furniture straps or zip ties to secure furniture to the floor.

This is another tip you don’t have to wait to implement. Securing your furniture now when the weather is calm can save you valuable time when bad weather does occur. It also doubles as a method of earthquake preparedness.

6. Know the signs

There are several atmospheric warning signs that can indicate a tornado is on the way. Look for a dark and calm sky, wall clouds, or an approaching cloud of debris and large hail, often in the absence of rain.

Listen to local forecasts and know the difference between tornado watches, when atmospheric conditions are favorable for a tornado, and tornado warnings, which mean that a tornado is imminent. Check forecasts often and keep a weather radio on hand for up-to-date information. You can also sign up for email or text alerts through a number of different services. The National Weather Service keeps a list of organizations that offer these alerts here.

ServiceMaster DSI is a commercial and residential disaster restoration company designed to provide homeowners and businesses with a recovery team they can trust to deliver consistent quality service. We have command and control centers strategically positioned throughout the U.S and can provide you with a one-touch solution, from initial emergency response to total restoration, minimizing business interruption and helping mitigate claim severity.

For professional advice on creating or adjusting a disaster recovery plan, contact ServiceMaster DSI’s team of experts. Click here or call 844-413-3130.