Being prepared and knowing what to do when a hurricane or severe weather system hits the area is essential to protecting your business and its assets. Duke Energy offers the following suggestions on how your business or office might better survive severe weather.
- Identify and be prepared to protect any vital equipment and/or records. Keep a supply of plastic sheeting and tape to cover cabinets and safes. Have on hand plastic bags that can be sealed for waterproofing electronics, vital information, legal documents, etc.
- Create a backup of important computer information. Maintain hard copies of essential documents in a safe place other than your business location.
- Have at least one working analog phone. If a power outage occurs, digital/electrical phones will not work.
- Protect your electronics with surge protection devices and make sure you have proper grounding of power, telephone and cable systems.
- Identify types of transportation available in your area and establish relationships with rental companies.
- You may need to rent vans or trucks to transport your office personnel, documents, equipment, etc.
- Discuss and establish backup security procedures. Remember, if a power outage occurs, alarm systems will not work without backup power.
- If you plan to cover your windows and doors, be sure to do a "test" installation to make sure your covers fit (this will also give you practice with the installation). If you use plywood for this purpose, store it in a dry place to help avoid warping.
- If you plan to have employees stay at your business during a storm be sure to prepare an interior space safe from breaking windows or damage to the outside of your building.
- Have a plan in place to communicate with your customers and suppliers. Know in advance which contractors you can call on if you need building or equipment repair.
- Create a "storm tool kit" and have the following supplies on hand: flashlights and extra batteries, a portable, battery-operated radio (with extra batteries), first-aid kit/manual, water purification tablets, emergency food and water, nonelectric can opener, essential medication, cash and credit cards.
- Designate and train a team within your company to direct pre-storm, storm and post-storm activity. For example, you will need to develop a staffing policy identifying which employees should remain on-site and which will be needed after the storm passes. Conduct practice runs of your designated plan and refine as necessary.
- Consider offering your employees assistance if they need help in developing their own storm/hurricane plans.
- Discuss the possibility of host homes where employees open their homes to co-workers in case of evacuation. You may also want to consider your business as a possible location for employees to stay, but you will want to discuss this with local authorities to make sure it is a safe option.
Before the storm
- Review your designated plan with employees and protect any vital equipment and/or records.
- Install your building protection and prepare an interior safe room if needed.
- Charge all wireless phones and computer back-up batteries.
- Have enough cash on hand for two weeks of business operation. Banks and ATMs will not be in operation without electricity, and stores may not be able to process credit card transactions.
- Have a plan for communicating with your employees in case telephones aren't available. If possible, find out about your employees' plans in case of evacuation.
- Lower the temperature setting on the refrigerator. If the power goes out, this will help your food stay as cool as possible, for as long as possible.
- Unplug or turn off all electrical appliances except for the refrigerator. This reduces the chance of overloading the circuits when power is restored and will protect equipment if your business is struck by electrical surges or lightning.
During a severe storm or hurricane watch/warning
- If you and your employees are at work when a severe storm warning is issued, or during the high winds of a hurricane, get to an inside room or office for the best protection from the elements.
- Listen to a battery-operated radio or television for hurricane progress reports. Avoid using elevators. Instead, take the stairs.
- During lightning storms, use cell or cordless/portable telephones instead of those with cords.
After the storm
- Be sure to inspect the following:
- Look for electrical system damage. If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker, and call an electrician.
- Check for gas leaks. If there is a smell of gas or a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave building. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve or call your building supervisor. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.
- If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid using the water from the tap.
- Remember, you can use the water from your water heater if necessary, or you can create a safe water supply by using purification tablets or by boiling the water.
- During your cleanup process, do not pile debris near utility poles or other electrical devices. Doing so makes it difficult for Duke Energy repair crews (and other utility workers) to restore service.
- Begin cleanup as soon as possible to prevent further damage:
- Cover broken windows and damaged roofing immediately.
- Clean and dry equipment.
- Remove standing water.
- Consider dehumidification of all areas, especially those essential areas containing sensitive equipment.