How to prepare for hurricanes as a small business in Florida

Key takeaways:

  • NOAA is predicting an above-normal 2022 hurricane season
  • It’s important to understand the five hurricane categories
  • An emergency response plan is essential for businesses
  • You must prepare now for a hurricane
  • Your business policy might not cover hurricane damage, so review your coverage now 

Hurricane season is underway. As a Florida business owner, you know the damage hurricanes can cause, so you need to start preparing your business for hurricane season now.

According to the National Hurricane Center, there are five categories of hurricanes, each with its own level of severity. It’s essential to understand these categories, what they mean in terms of severity, and what steps you can take to protect your businesses before a hurricane hits.

Understanding hurricane categories

These weather events can be deemed tropical storms or tropical depressions before they become hurricanes. A tropical depression is an area of low pressure with maximum sustained surface winds below 39 mph. A tropical storm has maximum sustained surface winds of 39-73 mph.

Category 1

The least severe category of hurricane, a Category 1 storm, has wind speeds of 74-95 mph. While this may not seem like much, it can still cause damage to buildings and trees, as well as power outages and flooding. Take steps to secure loose items outside, such as patio furniture or signage. Have a backup plan in case of a power outage.

Category 2

Category 2 hurricanes have sustained wind speeds of 96-110 mph. In addition to the potential damage from high winds, these storms can also lead to significant flooding, especially if you’re near the coast. Take all the same precautions as you would for a Category 1 storm, plus have a plan in place for dealing with flooding. This might include moving inventory and equipment to higher ground or investing in flood-proofing materials.

Category 3

Category 3 storms are the first category regarded as “major hurricanes.” They have wind speeds of 111-129 mph. These storms can cause extensive damage to trees, buildings, and infrastructure, as well as severe flooding. In addition to all the same precautions you’d take for a Cat 2 storm, you may need a plan for evacuating employees if necessary. In case of extended power outages, have backup generators or plan to move your operations somewhere else temporarily.

Category 4

With wind speeds of 130-156 mph, category 4 hurricanes are extremely dangerous and can cause widespread destruction. You should take the same precautions as you would for a Cat 3 hurricane, plus have a plan for relocating employees and operations if necessary. 

Category 5

A Category 5 hurricane has wind speeds of 157 mph or higher. These storms can cause catastrophic damage to buildings and infrastructure, as well as severe flooding. If the hurricane causes extensive damage to your property (outside or inside) or there are widespread power outages, you’ll likely need to move your operations. 

Once a hurricane warning or watch has been ordered, it’s time to prepare your business for a storm. Here are five steps to doing so. 

Step 1: Review your commercial insurance 

Now is the time to review your commercial insurance policy. Pay attention to what’s covered and what isn’t. Many standard insurance policies don’t cover hurricane damage because of the greater risk we face here in Florida. If you don’t already have it, you may need to purchase a specific hurricane policy. 

If you do have a hurricane policy, review your coverage limits to make sure you have enough. If you expanded your property, bought new equipment, added or expanded your warehouse, or made any upgrades, you might need more coverage to repair or replace damaged or lost property.  

Step 2: Conduct a risk analysis

Take a look around and determine areas of risk inside and outside your business. What problems could you face?

  • How old is the building? 
  • Is it well-built?
  • Is the area prone to flooding?
  • Is your business near the coast?
  • If you have more than one location, do both areas have similar risks?
  • Do you have storm shutters or hurricane-proof windows?
  • Is there a lot of loose materials or equipment lying around?
  • Do you have commercial vehicles or equipment that needs to be moved or stored in a safer/covered location?
  • What about furniture, equipment, and inventory inside the building?
  • What will you do in case of a power outage that lasts days or weeks?

Step 3: Develop an emergency plan

You must have a business emergency plan so you know what to do in the event of a hurricane or other natural disaster. Your goals should include how to safeguard your property, vehicles, and equipment. Don’t forget to protect your employees as well. Your plans may need to have evacuations and lockdowns. 

Step 4: Back up important data and systems

While damage to a building or inventory can cause significant headaches, losing your data or systems could be devastating. Make sure you back up your data regularly. You might also want to consider getting an offsite server or putting your data in a cloud-based system. Not only does it allow easy access from any device, but it also ensures that all of your data will be safely stored, even if your onsite server becomes inaccessible.

Step 5: Develop an emergency communication plan

Make sure your plan includes the contact information of key stakeholders such as managers, employees, and clients/customers. This way, you’ll have a way to reach everyone with urgent news and updates about your business if a hurricane or other natural disaster strikes. 

Keep in mind that land phone lines may be down for some time during and after a storm. In the case of widespread power outages, you might not even be able to use your cellphone. So, your plan should include multiple communication methods such as texting, your social media pages, Facebook Instant Messaging, Skype, or apps like WhatsApp. 

Additional resources

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers a free Hurricane Toolkit to help you identify safety and business continuity risks your company might face in the event of a hurricane. The kit walks you through how to address these risks and how to take steps to address them before disaster strikes. Review their Business Hurricane Preparedness Guide.

Hurricane preparedness plan for commercial vehicles

Hurricanes are responsible for an estimated $136 billion in damage in Florida. As a business owner, you must have plans to protect your life’s work. Your goals should include safeguarding your commercial property, equipment, inventory, and vehicles. 

You also want to do everything you can to protect your employees. Commercial insurance is one part of the puzzle. These five tips will also play a role in ensuring your company can keep rolling.

Avante Insurance offers business auto policies as well as an array of other commercial insurance for your business like:

  • Commercial auto insurance
  • Business interruption
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP)
  • Business umbrella insurance
  • Workers’ compensation

We can help you secure the right policies for your needs. Contact us today to request a quote. 

This blog and website are made available by the publisher for educational and informational purposes only. It is not to be used as a substitute for competent insurance, legal, or tax advice from a licensed professional in your state.