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Severe Winter Weather - Before, During and After Preparations

By Katharine Washburn | Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

Planning is valuable in preparation for any form of event, but is essential in more common situations such as severe winter weather. Depending on where you are located, frequent weather events may not appear dangerous since you have been through them before; but what if this next storm shuts down your power for a week? Do you know what to do or where to go? Do you have the proper supplies on hand? Weather can be a common disruption that arises quickly and without warning and affects many. Inclement weather can range from a moderate snowfall to ice storms to freezing temperatures and is often large enough to affect several states, therefore affecting some businesses in multiple areas. 

Regardless of the severity of the weather, it is important for businesses to ensure that their employees are aware of the firm’s preparation protocols, personal preparation strategies and the available resources to them.

Many severe winter weather events are accompanied by dangerously low temperatures, strong winds, ice and, at times, freezing rain. A crucial concern is a winter storm’s ability to knock out power, heat and communications to both offices and homes. Does your firm have the procedures in place to ensure your employees remain safe, accounted for and business operations can continue if the power and/or heat are to go out in the building? Has your firm effectively communicated to employees in the past during severe winter weather?

Do your employees have the capabilities to work from home or another safe, warm location? In order to answer “yes” to these questions, we recommend that a business prepare weather procedures that include a timeline leading up to, and after, the event has taken place. Below is a high-level sample of a typical before, during and after preparation timeline for severe weather impact:

Before – Preparing for a storm

  • Emergency Kit Supplies – Ensure your firm’s emergency kit(s) are fully stocked with items such as:

    • Flashlights, matches & candles

    • Batteries

    • Clean water

    • Food

    • First Aid

    • Blankets

  • Communications – Not all of your employees may be aware of the severity of the approaching weather, so it is important to proactively reach out to employees and set workload expectations before the severe weather hits. 

  • Monitoring the Storm – Be alert to the changing weather and how it may affect business operations, employee travel, building conditions, etc. Some of the ways you can remain conscious including being aware of the latest news reports, following key organizations on Twitter for up-to-the-minute information or listening to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio.

  • Traveling Employees – Work with your Human Resources department to check if employees are traveling for business, out with clients or on vacation. Accounting for employees is vital in all contingency preparation and recovery strategies. It is a business’s responsibility to ensure its employees are safe and accounted for.

During – What to do during the storm

As part of a firm’s communications strategy, suggestive measures should be provided to employees. Below are a few severe winter weather suggestions from FEMA’s

  • Advise employees to stay indoors. If employees must go outside, they should wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight and warm clothing. Additionally, proceed very carefully and be aware of surroundings such as black ice, extreme wind gusts, etc. If traveling, keep others informed, stay on main roads and travel during the day.

  • Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow.

  • Watch for signs of frostbite, such as the loss of feeling, white or pale appearance in extremities such as ear lobes, fingers and toes.

  • If traveling during severe weather, leave the heat on in your home, setting the temperature to no lower than 55ºF.

After – What to consider after the storm

Once the severe winter weather has hit the area, businesses should follow-up with a communication setting expectations for the following business day. If employees have been affected by the storm - for example if they do not have heat - they should go to a designated public shelter or family member/friend’s home. 

For more information on preparing yourself and your firm for a weather-related event, check out these resources:

Photo Credit: Boston Globe

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