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Preparing your business for cyclones

Before the cyclone season starts, you can take some precautions to prepare your business for extreme weather.

Cyclones can often have a devastating impact on your business activities, forcing disruptions to trading and extended periods of closure. Although often unavoidable, damage can be limited if precautions are put in place to keep your business running or help it recover as quickly as possible.

Steps To Prepare Your Business For a Cyclone 

  1. Tidy up all loose objects in the open air and store inside, as these objects can be picked up by the strong winds and cause property damage or bodily injury.
  2. Check roofing and ensure it is secure. In particular ensure all roof gutters are clear as heavy torrential rains can cause gutters to overflow and back up, causing water to enter the interior of the building.
  3. Where a metal roof has already been subject to cyclone wind loads, the fasteners can exhibit weakening – consider replacing the fastening screws to ensure they won’t fail when the next cyclone hits.
  4. Check walling panels (for steel frame buildings) in addition to roof panels, as these can also fail due to pressures generated in a cyclone.
  5. Placing plywood in front of large windows, particularly on the windward side, can help avert a broken window but can also result in an overpressure of the building interior that can increase the damage to walls and roof. If the business has plywood or a similar material ready for protecting windows, it’s a good idea to label each panel so they can be quickly fitted leading up to a cyclone event.
  6. Have reinforcing in place for loading dock doors (which typically fail at even low wind speeds).
  7. Ensure there are no obstructions to storm water drains and pits to the heavy volumes of storm water expected during a cyclone.
  8. Consider raising vulnerable stock and equipment above floor level to protect it from water damage. This will also assist you to resume business quickly following the cyclone. Consider storing chemicals (particularly those prone to water contamination) and other toxic materials well above ground level so that if there is water inundation runoff water is not contaminated. 
  9. Ensure that vegetation, in particular trees and large branches, are trimmed so there is less likelihood that these branches can impact and damage your buildings.
  10. Secure the perimeter of the building by ensuring all doors are closed and locked and, where practicable, by boarding up windows.
  11. Ensure vital records are well protected. If they are remaining on site, consider covering the storage cabinets containing the records in plastic and placing them above ground. Better still, relocate these records, or duplicates, off site, providing a level of redundancy in the event of damage to buildings.
  12. Vehicles should be parked in a garage or within a building rather than a carport. If none of these are available, the vehicle should be parked away from trees.
  13. Ensure you have adequate supplies of; torches with fresh batteries, brooms and mop & buckets 

Keep An Up-To-Date Business Continuity Plan 

Ensuring the details in your business continuity plan are current can limit the negative impact on trading hours – e.g. that the contacts details of all of your staff, vital suppliers, customers, and for your insurance broker and insurer (both office and mobile) are up to date.

Review contingency plans addressing business-critical functions, as they can change from year to year. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What period of downtime can my business tolerate without a significant financial impact?
  • Are there any functions necessary to fulfil legal or regulatory obligations?
  • What business functions are essential for maintaining my key customers?
  • Do I have an alternative site for staff, customer and supplier communication? Have I let everyone know about this site?

Finally it is highly advisable to speak to your insurance adviser to make sure you have the right cover in place for your business. Ask about business interruption cover and make sure the sum your business is insured for is enough to avoid the trap of under-insurance.