How to prepare for extreme weather events to help keep workers, property safe

extreme weather events | Pictured: A storm and cloudy, dark skies over green grass

How to prepare for extreme weather events to help keep workers, property safe

Severe weather and natural disasters can strike anytime. Whether from climate change, natural weather patterns or other causes, their frequency has increased during the past two decades. Now more than ever, it’s essential to be prepared and have plans in place that protect staff members and your valuable business assets in the event of extreme weather and/or natural disasters. Here are some tips for putting a good plan together.

Create an emergency response plan

Preplanning is a main factor in successful project completion, and it’s also essential for responding to emergency situations, according to Troy Tepp, director of safety services with Sentry Insurance.

“Predicting when those events will occur is nearly impossible, and that’s why it’s essential to be prepared with response plans,” said Tepp during a webinar for the Associated Equipment Distributors titled “Developing Your Emergency Response & Recovery Plans – Before They’re Needed.” “Thoughtful preplanning that addresses potential scenarios is vital.”

As a starting point, Tepp suggested establishing goals and priorities.

A weather app showing severe storms incoming and stating to have a plan and be prepared
There are apps for smartphones and tablets that can give workers the ability to track weather and plan for potential emergency situations.

“The top priority within any emergency response plan must be developing procedures that prioritize the protection of lives and the safety of your staff, customers and any other visitors to your facilities. Keep in mind, your procedures also need to account for employees outside of your fixed-base operations, such as field personnel, drivers and equipment operators.”

In Jacksonville, Texas, WHM Construction Inc. uses technology to help protect personnel from severe weather.

“Watching the weather is essential because it can affect everything we do, but keeping our staff safe is of utmost importance,” said Justin Holman, vice president. “We prepare by having apps on our smartphones that alert us if severe weather is imminent. If that’s the case, everyone is instructed to get out of harm’s way as safely and quickly as possible. After it’s passed, we assess the situation and determine our next course of action.”

Prioritize for your area(s)

Natural events such as tornadoes, fires, severe storms, hurricanes, ice and snow, and earthquakes are all considerations for weather plans. Prioritize those that are most prevalent and likely to occur in your area.

Tepp used a tornado as an example of how to align risk assessment with planning and awareness and stated, “If that is one of your foreseeable emergencies, begin to create a plan by identifying the alarms and alerts that identify those events. Then, you develop action that mitigates the risk, such as designating a shelter or shelters.”

“You will also want to clearly identify them as such with signage, and train staff to know where shelters are located and that they should immediately proceed to the shelters if they hear the alarms. You also need to designate and train staff members to assist those with special needs. If personnel are off-site, have a communication plan to check on their safety and well-being.”

A storm and cloudy, dark skies over green grass
Severe weather such as thunderstorms can happen anywhere and at any time of the year. Having emergency plans and procedures in place can protect lives and property.

When designing your response procedures, make sure they are specific. They should define roles and responsibilities as well as activate an assigned response team.

Kort Wittich, owner of Kort’s Construction Services Inc. in Covington, La., knows that preparation for multiple scenarios is essential.

“We have a couple of major considerations in this region,” said Wittich, who provides a diversified list of site construction offerings, mainly in the New Orleans metro area. “One is thunderstorms. We keep our eyes and ears open to the television and radio stations for forecasts and updates and base decisions from those, as well as looking at radar on our phones and watching the sky. If we determine that severe weather is coming, we pull personnel off-site, so they can get to safety.

“Unfortunately, hurricanes come with the territory, but unlike thunderstorms, which can pop up anytime, you generally have a few to several days’ notice before a hurricane,” said Wittich. “That gives us time to move assets out of areas where they may potentially be damaged and get them to a more secure location. Our goal is to do that in a safe manner as quickly as possible, so our staff also has time to prepare their homes and families.”

A sign outside that says Emergency Assembly Point East
If a weather event hits your business during work hours, there should be designated areas for workers to report to.

Blue Mountain Minerals also faces multiple scenarios at its limestone quarry in Columbia, Calif., including fires.

“Like anyplace that’s surrounded by timber and mountains, wildfires are more prevalent,” added Richard Stringham, plant manager. “We had one across the lake adjacent to our property last year, and we had to evacuate. Our plans definitely include that situation. We have roads besides our main road that lead out of the site for us to exit. Being in Northern California, there is less of a chance of an earthquake than in the southern part of the state, but the possibility is always there, so we are prepared for that too.”

Communication remains key

To prepare effectively, create a business-recovery plan. According to Tepp, the plan should designate a pre-assigned business-recovery team. Other elements of the plan should include determining essential staff versus support staff, creating recovering operations, outlining IT needs, looking at communication considerations, preparing daily progress updates and phased recovery, testing, and training.

“Reporting the incident to your insurance carrier in a timely manner should be your first step [after an incident has occurred],” said Tepp. “The faster it’s reported, the quicker an investigation can occur, and reimbursements can be made. Your team will oversee successful recovery by putting the plans in place that you developed to deal with emergency events.”

Click here to learn more about emergency response plans.

Editor’s Note: This article is excerpted from a longer blog. To read it in its entirety visit