Winter Weather Preparedness Checklist

Severe winter weather can lead to property damage, employee illness or injury, and possible business closures.  The following checklist will help you identify the areas of your business that are most susceptible to winter hazards.

Winter storms may range from a moderate snow in a short amount of time to a blizzard lasting for days. Some storms are regional and may affect several states, while others are more localized, depending upon geography and terrain. Common characteristics of winter storms are dangerously low temperatures, strong winds, ice, sleet, and freezing rain.

To minimize damage and recover quicker following a winter storm situation, it is a good idea to develop a plan of action for your business and your staff to be ready for this type of interruption. Below you will find critical information and preparedness tools to assist in protecting your business and the most critical element of your business – your people.

Know the Terms

  • Winter storm watch --- be alert, a storm is likely
  • Winter storm warning --- take action, the storm is in or entering the area
  • Blizzard warning --- snow and strong winds combined will produce blinding snow, near zero visibility, deep drifts, and life-threatening wind chill--seek refuge immediately!
  • Winter weather advisory --- winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous, especially to motorists
  • Frost/freeze warning --- below freezing temperatures are expected and may cause damage to plants, crops, or fruit trees

Before the Storm

Check your insurance coverage for protection against winter hazards.
Check your procedure for restoring electrical services on an item-by-item basis.
Establish a procedure for relocating salvageable and undamaged stock and supplies.
Add the following supplies to your disaster supplies kit: rock salt (to melt ice on driveways), sand (to improve traction), and snow shovels (or other snow removal equipment).
Determine your greatest risk potential: loss of heat, frozen pipes, and/or loss of access due to snow/ice.
Identify who is responsible for keeping heating equipment in good working order: business owner or landlord.
Determine what equipment needs to be protected from freeze-up, i.e. computers, telecommunications, manufacturing equipment, etc.
Are portable heaters or other emergency equipment needed?
If snow and/or ice prohibit access to your business, are there alternative ways to enter your premises?
Seal all openings with caulking and insulation where cold air can enter.
Repair walls and roofs to prevent drafts; inspect roof drains for debris.
Make sure storm windows are effective, if appropriate.
Make sure heating and heat-producing process equipment is in good condition and operating efficiently.
Arrange for snow removal from driveways, doorways, and roofs.
Drain all idle pumps and compressors, making sure jackets are vented.
Provide proper lubrication for cold weather operation (i.e., emergency generators, snow blowers).
Test cold weather equipment.
Clean and inspect boilers and firing mechanism/controls.
Maintain automatic sprinkler protection in idle buildings; promptly handle sprinkler system impairments; notify local fire department.
Monitor building temperature especially in hard-to-heat areas containing vulnerable equipment. Keep temperatures above 40°F.
Mark hydrants near your business for ease in locating and clearing after a heavy storm.

 

During the Storm

 

Locate heaters, snow blowers, generators, and cold-weather equipment should it be needed.
Keep driveways, walkways, and doorways clear of snow and ice.
Open water faucets slightly to let them drip in order to keep water flowing through the pipes that are vulnerable to freezing. Ice may still form, but the open faucet helps prevent the pipe from bursting by allowing relief for any built up pressure.
Keep names and phone numbers of your heating contractor, plumber, fire department, insurance agent, and building owner easily accessible.
Assign someone to check indoor temperatures should your place of business be vacant for long periods of time.

 

Your People

 

Ensure you have an emergency communication plan in place prior to the storm, evacuation, or threat.
Have all employees, vendors, and client contact information on hand.
Use an Alert Notification System to keep all stakeholders posted on status and next steps.
During evacuation consider your phones lines- redirection to cell phones, answering service, Google Voice, or alternate locations could be critical.
Following the storm, notify all critical people of next steps, based on damage.

About the Author

Agility Recovery, a former division of GE, has over 20 years of disaster recovery and business continuity experience dedicated to delivering innovative business continuity solutions that challenge the traditional industry barriers of scale, cost and complexity. Agility provides comprehensive, packaged recovery solutions, consulting services and testing options to businesses across North America. Since 2008, Agility has responded to over 560 disaster events and conducted over 700 recovery tests. For more information, visit www.agilityrecovery.com