Business Preparedness Tips to Tackle Winter Weather Risks

Business Preparedness Tips to Tackle Winter Weather Risks | Property & Casualty

From the fury of snowstorms to an onslaught of power outages, winter weather can wreak havoc if your company is unprepared. Extreme weather events can cause extensive damage to your buildings and vehicles, resulting in lost income, increased transportation costs, reduced customer activity and utility disruptions. However, proactive measures can minimize disruptions, safeguard assets and prioritize the safety of employees and customers.

Evaluate Winter Weather Risk

Implementing a proactive weather risk prevention strategy enables your business to minimize potential harm and improve overall readiness for severe weather events. Steps to fortify your defenses include:

Conduct a Comprehensive Risk Assessment

Thoroughly review and document your organization’s unique winter weather risks. These exposures will be influenced by various factors, such as geographic location, industry, operational activities, workplace conditions and employee duties. Understanding these risks allows your organization to respond accordingly and adopt more robust mitigation strategies. Common winter weather risks include:

  • Structural concerns (e.g., burst or frozen pipes, water damage)
  • Hazardous driving conditions & transportation delays or cancellations
  • Equipment failures & utility disruptions (e.g., heat & communication services)
  • Electrical fires & power outages
  • Employee illnesses & injuries (e.g., hypothermia, frostbite, cold stress, slips & falls)

Understand Winter Weather Advisories & Warnings

Prioritize an understanding of winter storm advisories and warnings to anticipate and prepare for incoming weather conditions. Familiarize yourself with these key weather terms:

  • Winter Storm Watch: Indicates the possibility of winter storm conditions (e.g., heavy snow, sleet, freezing rain) within the next 12-24 hours.
  • Winter Storm Warning: Issued when winter storm conditions are imminent or already occurring.
  • Ice Storm Warning: Delivered when a winter storm is projected to cause 0.25 inches or more of total ice accumulation and has the potential to damage trees and power lines.
  • Blizzard Warning: Issued when a winter storm is expected to create a dangerous combination of heavy snow and strong winds in the next 12-18 hours, leading to intense gusts and visibility restrictions to 0.25 miles or less for at least three consecutive hours.
  • Winter Weather Advisory: An alert that total snow, sleet or ice accumulations from a winter storm could pose considerable inconveniences and potentially life-threatening situations.

Stay Informed

Utilize proper communication channels and regional alert systems. Your business can receive advanced winter weather advisories and warnings from local news stations, mobile applications and social media platforms. NOAA’s Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR) offers a nationwide network of radio stations continuously broadcasting weather updates and forecasts from nearby National Weather Service offices.

Essential Winter Business Preparedness

Your business can significantly reduce the impact of winter storms on its operations by taking proactive measures. Some crucial steps before a winter storm strikes include:

Develop a Business Continuity Plan (BCP)

A business continuity plan outlines how your company can restore critical operations during an unforeseen service disruption. When creating a BCP, identify prevalent operational vulnerabilities that could arise during a winter storm and prepare strategies to mitigate their impact. Key elements of a well-designed BCP include:

  • Business Impact Analysis: Identify potential disasters that could compromise your operations, evaluate their severity and develop strategies to minimize their impact.
  • Structured Frameworks: Create detailed disaster response frameworks and temporary relocation plans to minimize property damage, operational disruptions and bodily harm.  
  • Recovery Strategies: Evaluate the essential critical functions necessary to restore sales, production and other operations. Develop recovery strategies by identifying resource needs and conducting gap analyses.
  • Tests & Exercises: Establish specific testing, exercise and maintenance requirements for your plan. Implement comprehensive BCP training and orientation processes for both new and existing employees to ensure a thorough understanding.
  • Ongoing Reviews & Updates: Regularly review and update your BCP to ensure its effectiveness as your business changes over time, necessitating adjustments to address emerging risks and vulnerabilities.

Secure Sufficient Insurance Coverage

Various commercial insurance policies can provide valuable financial support after winter storm-related losses. While specific coverage needs may differ based on industry and location, consider the following policies to fortify your protection:

  • Commercial Property Insurance: Provides coverage for repair and replacement expenses if your commercial property sustains damage or is destroyed by certain perils (e.g., damage from heavy snow, ice dam formations).
  • Commercial Auto Insurance: Covers various medical, auto and liability costs stemming from accidents involving your business’ commercial vehicles (e.g., icy road-caused crashes, blizzard visibility impairment-caused collisions).
  • Business Interruption Insurance: Offers financial assistance to compensate for lost income and temporary relocation expenses where a covered event necessitates the temporary closure or suspension of your operations.
  • General Liability Insurance: Protects your company from the costs of third-party property damage or bodily injuries on its premises or during its operations (e.g., a customer struck by a falling icicle, a client slips on an icy surface).
  • Workers’ Compensation Insurance: Assists your business in compensating the medical expenses and lost wages of employees who sustain work-related injuries or illnesses.

Seek guidance from a trusted insurance professional to optimize your coverage and stay one step ahead of evolving exposures.

Keep in mind that insurance carriers typically decide claims for winter weather-related losses caused by negligence. This includes situations where properties aren’t maintained at temperatures warm enough to prevent frozen pipes or when snow and ice aren’t properly removed to avoid associated injuries. Supplement your commercial insurance policy with effective loss control strategies.

Protect Your Commercial Property

Without proper precautions, your company could experience significant damage to its commercial property due to harsh winter conditions. Fortunately, your business can take proactive steps to protect its properties and minimize related damage with these winter storm safeguards:

Prioritize Maintenance & Repairs

Keeping your property’s structural and mechanical features well-maintained can minimize the impact of winter weather. Follow these maintenance and repair guidelines:

  • Regularly inspect the roof, gutters, drains and downspouts for signs of wear and tear or other damage (e.g., holes, missing shingles, excess debris). Promptly complete any necessary repairs.
  • Test critical building components (e.g., heating, ventilating, air conditioning systems, electrical equipment, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, fire suppression systems). Take immediate action to resolve any identified concerns.
  • Develop plans for removing and deicing outdoor walkways, parking lots and roofs. Designate employees or third-party services to handle these tasks.
  • Utilize landscaping techniques to minimize the risk of soil erosion from ice buildup and snowmelt, ensuring proper drainage to prevent water damage.

Leverage Ample Insulation & Temperature Controls

Preventing winter storms’ frigid air, snow and ice from making it indoors and affecting your properties is essential. Utilize insulation and temperature controls by:

  • Regularly monitoring thermostats to maintain temperatures above 40°F
  • Thoroughly inspecting attics, walls and ceilings for cracks or holes, promptly sealing them with caulk or appropriate seals
  • Ensuring that windows, doors, skylights, ventilators and shafts are properly weather-tight
  • Installing water-resistant insulation to protect the attic, pipes and building exterior

Secure Valuable Assets & Documentation

Safeguard essential machinery, technology, supplies, inventory and documentation (e.g., computers, production equipment, emergency contact information, insurance policies) in highly secure locations, ensuring protection from potential winter storm damage.

Establish Winter Storm Emergency Response Plans & Backup Systems

Develop comprehensive emergency response plans that specifically address preparing for and responding to winter storms. They should outline:

  • Emergency response team members & their primary responsibilities
  • Gas, water & electric supply information
  • Inventory & equipment details
  • Nearby disaster recovery services

Adopt data protection plans to ensure vital records and files are routinely backed up in the cloud or secure offsite locations, enabling continued accessibility during winter weather. Invest in and maintain various backup systems (e.g., emergency generators, portable heaters) to handle power outages and other utility disruptions caused by winter storms.

We’re Here to Help Protect Against Winter Weather Risks

Being prepared for winter storms is essential to safeguard lives and mitigate the impact of these natural disasters. By recognizing the warning signs and knowing how to respond, your organization can effectively navigate the challenges of winter weather. As preparation can be overwhelming, connect with a member of our team for support in implementing effective practices and policies for winter weather. 

Business Preparedness Tips to Tackle Winter Weather Risks | Property & Casualtyhttps://www.cbiz.com/Portals/0/Images/GettyImages-477839825-2.jpg?ver=t9prxaEndHLgUq47rVlglw%3d%3dGet ready to combat the winter battle with our cutting-edge tips to unleash your business's full potential in the icy season.2023-11-27T18:00:00-05:00Get ready to combat the winter battle with our cutting-edge tips to unleash your business's full potential in the icy season.

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Risk MitigationProperty & Casualty InsuranceYes