Small Business Winter Storm Preparedness
In November 2019, the United States was hit by a powerful arctic blast that impacted 200 million people from Chicago to Texas.
While the storm may have provided many Americans with the opportunity to sit by the fire and enjoy a warm drink, it also closed schools, and grounded flights. The storm forced many small and medium businesses to close temporarily.
And it wasn't the only storm of the year. According to AccuWeather, winter storms throughout 2019 cost the nation over $8 billion in lost revenue, wages, taxes, and more. Some business owners even lost their businesses — as the Institute for Business and Home Safety estimated that 25% of small businesses close after a disaster.
Don't want this to be you? Take note of the six winter storm preparation tips for businesses in this article.
1. Assess your winter weather threats
While snowfall is the most significant threat facing some businesses, others need to worry about power outages and pipes freezing. How do you know which winter weather hits you need to worry about? Assess your threats.
Start by examining this list of threats:
- Road closures
- Car accidents
- Freezing rain
- Frostbite and hypothermia
- Snowfall on your roof or property
- Structural damage as a result of winds, snow, or water
- Slip and fall injuries
- Power outages
- Water in pipes freezing
- Electrical fires caused by winter storm damage
Mark the ones you need to worry about the most so you can prioritize them. If you don't know which threats to prepare for, look at local winter storm warnings for your area, advice from your local council, and SCORE's disaster recovery resources.
2. Strengthen your business locations
Mitigating threats in advance is the best way to keep your business going during a crisis, as the more prepared you are, the better your response will be.
To prepare for disaster, make sure you develop an evaluation plan and take practical disaster-planning steps like:
- Keeping blankets and sleeping bags on hand for warmth during a power outage
- Stocking a supply of food and water
- Purchasing torches, a first aid kit, and a snow shovel
- Preparing financially for a disaster
Additionally, you should also maintain your buildings to keep them secure. This means:
- Checking roofing and pipes
- Adding pipe insulation to prevent frozen pipes
- Testing lighting, HVAC systems, smoke alarms, and carbon monoxide detectors
To keep your customers happy, send them a survey form asking how potential delays on your end would impact them. You can use this information to develop a contingency plan to keep your business operations on track.
3. Equip your team with the right tools and info for cold weather
If you've ever worked with someone with a trade background, you've probably heard the saying "right tool for the right task." It applies to disaster planning, too.
As you won't have time to rush to the store and buy supplies during a winter storm, you need to buy the right tools before disaster strikes. These tools include:
- Anything you need to fix minor building damage (replacement parts, construction tools, etc.)
- Safety equipment (including emergency lighting, a portable generator, a space heater, and a fire extinguisher)
- A winter emergency kit
- Anything you need to dig your building out of snow
- Anything you need to keep your electronics safe (as cold weather can permanently damage them)
- A radio so you know when a winter storm warning is issued
4. Keep track of your inventory
Imagine this situation: severe winter weather makes your roof collapse and destroys everything inside your store. Thankfully, you have insurance — but they won't cover your stock because you don't have a detailed list of your current stock.
Keep track of your inventory carefully if you want to stop this situation from becoming your reality.
5. Check your insurance coverage
According to the Texas Department of Insurance, insurers paid out over $4.1 billion in 253,000 insurance claims after the state's power grid failed. Though insurance funds can't reverse a disaster, imagine where many Texas-based businesses would be without those funds.
Good insurance coverage is crucial for businesses that face winter weather threats, as insurance money may save your business from bankruptcy if the storm damages your store or forces your business to close.
To ensure you are adequately covered for a severe winter storm, check your Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) carefully and compare insurance options to ensure you have what you need.
6. Make plans for post-storm snow removal
Tips #1 to #5 have focused on surviving winter storms. But if you've ever faced a business-damaging snowfall, you'll know that post-storm cleanup isn't easy. That's why you need to prepare in advance.
Create a contingency plan to help you clean up post-storm. This plan should include any logistical considerations, a list of contractors who can help with repairs, and how you will pay for them. You should also include this contingency plan in your business plan so your staff, investors, and coworkers understand it.
Why small business owners should prepare for winter storms
You can't control the winter weather, but you can control how your business prepares for disaster.
To keep your business safe from winter storms, make sure you assess potential threats in advance, prepare your locations for disaster, prepare your team, document your inventory, check your insurance coverage, and plan for clean-up.
Copyright © 2023 SCORE Association, SCORE.org
Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.