While we don’t face devastating hurricanes like some areas of the country, Atlanta still faces its share of hazards that can impact business operations.  With thanks to the American Red Cross, here are ten steps you can take to mitigate hazards and reduce the damage to your business caused by severe weather.

  • Be Active in the Ready Rating™ Program. Available at www.readyrating.org, this no-cost program provides a comprehensive assessment of how well prepared your business is for a wide range of possible hazards.
  • Be Red Cross Ready. Next, consider the Be Red Cross Ready program. If your staff is unprepared for a disaster then so is your business. This popular program teaches how to plan for emergencies and stay safe when a disaster strikes.
  • Get the Apps! The Red Cross offers a number of free apps for smart phones and tablets including ones for hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and many other emergency-related situations. Go to http://www.redcross.org/prepare/mobile-apps and pre-load these onto your smart phone for quick access during an emergency.
  • Know Your Neighborhood. Become familiar with local risks. A good source of information on the frequency and severity of weather events in your neighborhood is the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website www.noaa.gov.
  • Do Some Research. Once you have identified the weather hazards that should be of concern, turn to the Ready Rating Resource Center where you can find information on how to respond to various types of dangerous weather. Locate a copy of your city or town’s emergency response plan and read through it for information on how the local government plans to respond to different types of crisis situations.
  • Harden Your Facility. You don’t have to be overly security-minded to invest some time in checking doors, locks and fire alarms. But how many firms take time to see if they are near a flood plain or a wildfire danger zone?
  • Protect Vital Records. Being forced to evacuate your office may mean leaving behind important information. Take a few minutes now to ensure the safety and security of key papers, records or other valuables. Regardless of how you choose to store your original records, store key documents and databases online and off-premises. There are some reliable free and many for-fee, online services that offer ‘cloud storage’ sites where you can keep copies of important documents.
  • Talk to Your Suppliers. Given the amount of connection and interdependency among businesses, be sure to talk to your suppliers and service providers about their preparedness programs. Encourage them to take the same steps you took and urge them to start with the Ready Rating program. Ask how they plan to respond to local or wide-scale disasters and critically evaluate their response. If you aren’t comfortable with their answers, consider finding more dependable partners.
  • Tune-in to NWS. As soon as severe weather threatens, tune to the local National Weather Service radio station for updates, briefings and preparedness suggestions. Take time now, before a crisis threatens, to find the NSW station in your area. Since power outages often accompany storms, consider purchasing a battery operated or hand-cranked radio so you can track the storm’s progress until service is restored.
  • Focus on Five. Having taken the previous nine steps, focus your attention on the five most common business interruptions that are likely to occur in your area. This is a manageable number and you will find that preparing for five events will actually prepare you for many other, less common but still dangerous events.

 

The following is a list of some common weather hazards for Atlanta along with a short summary of what you can do to mitigate the risk arising from each.

1. Heat Wave. Defined as a prolonged period when temperatures are at least 10º F above the region’s average for that time of the year heat waves are usually accompanied by excessive humidity. In 2012, heat waves were the number one weather-related killer responsible for 155 deaths in the United States.

2. Heavy Rains/Flooding. Intense or persistent rain storms can cause the ground to become saturated and unable to absorb additional water, leading to flood conditions.

If roadways or sidewalks become covered with water, avoid walking on or driving through such puddles. Sidewalks, bridged and roadways that are underwater may not be stable and it is often impossible to tell if sections have been washed away by the flood. It only takes six inches of flowing water to knock an adult off his or her feet and as little as two feet of water can lift and carry away cars and small trucks. The sad fact is that 50% of fatalities caused by flood waters are due to drowning inside vehicles.
If your business is located in a flood zone there are some things you can do to better prepare your facility against the risk of flooding. These include:
-Elevating your building.
-Roof clips and hurricane straps are inexpensive, easy to install, and provide a high level of protection against building damage due to high winds.
-Raising your electrical outlets and meters.
-Installing backflow prevention devices.

3. Tornados. Georgia is especially susceptible to tornadoes in the spring and summer months.   Many businesses in tornado-prone areas have constructed safe rooms in their facilities.

4. Ice Storms. While only occurring every few years, their infrequency makes ice storms all the more damaging in Georgia.  These events can shut down businesses for several days, impact the lives of employees and their families and lead to damage at your business.  Damage from broken pipes is the second most common insurance claim filed on behalf of home office buildings.  Insulate your pipes now and gain the benefits of reduced energy use while protecting against ice storms.

5. Power Outage.  Loss of electricity may occur simultaneously with a weather event or independently.  In either case, have a plan on how your business will respond to a loss of electricity.  Be prepared to communicate with your employees, customers, and suppliers during this period without electricity.

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