June 1st marks the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season, which extends through November 30th. However, this year the first storm kicked off the season earlier than usual when Hurricane Alex formed in January. It is critical that operators of the over 7,000 self-storage facilities located in coastal areas take the necessary steps now to prepare for hurricanes and other severe weather events.
The respected Colorado State University forecaster Dr. Philip Klotzbach recently predicted the 2016 season will be an active one with a forecast including thirteen named storms including six hurricanes with two classified as major hurricanes (Category 3-5). Additionally, this forecast estimates the probability of a major hurricane landfall on the U.S. East Coast as 50 percent, the Florida peninsula as 30 percent, and the Gulf Coast as 29 percent.
A critical task for self-storage operators is creating and maintaining an emergency preparedness plan and communicating that plan to your team. Whether your business is located in a hurricane-prone area or is more inland, keep in mind that self-storage facilities may be affected by severe weather or environmental emergencies such as tornadoes, windstorms, fire, and earthquakes at any time of the year.
Emergency Contacts and Documentation
In the event of a weather emergency, your contact list will be a vital tool. Put together a list of important contact information and keep it in a secure location away from the facility premises. When severe weather is imminent, make a copy of the list and keep it on your person until the threat has passed. The list should include the carrier names, addresses, phone numbers, and policy numbers for each of your insurance policies as well as contact numbers for your employees, local police, medical facilities, utilities, and other emergency contacts. Store all valuable papers and records in a safe place.
Vendor Supply Chain
After a storm hits, you may need to make emergency repairs in order to re-open the facility for business. Now is the time to identify vendors and contractors in your area and talk to them about their ability to respond following a catastrophic event. It may be possible to make arrangements with these businesses to secure priority response for your facility in the aftermath of a catastrophic event.
The best time to learn the details of your insurance policy is before you need to file a claim, not afterward. Contact your insurance agent to review the coverages on your policies to ensure that storm- and disaster-related exposures are addressed. Take the time to review your building values, deductibles and how business interruption coverage will be addressed subsequent to a catastrophic event. It is vital for you to be aware of your potential financial exposure in the event of a catastrophic loss.
Once your emergency plan is in place, your facility staff should receive ongoing training to familiarize them with its key elements and procedures including potential shelter-in-place provisions and post-storm safety considerations for employees and customers.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers many valuable online resources for business owners at www.ready.gov/business including insurance coverage review forms, checklists, communication plans, and other preparedness documents.
Take the time now to create an emergency preparedness plan to protect your employees, your customers, and your bottom line in the event of a hurricane or other weather emergency. Awareness is the key. Don’t let hurricane season find you unprepared.
President and CEO