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.
  • Arrange for snow removal from driveways, doorways, and roofs.
  • Test cold weather equipment.
  • Make sure heating and heat-producing process equipment is in good condition and operating efficiently.
  • Clean and inspect boilers and firing mechanism/controls.
  • 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.

Download the checklist for more tips for during and after the storm.