Increasing frequency of extreme weather puts premium on preparedness | Bill McLoughlin

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For the past three weeks, a great deal of attention and concern has been focused on California as the state got pummeled by massive rain storms. As a frame of reference, the state received more rain in the past three weeks than in the entire previous year.

Two weeks ago, massive thunderstorms sparked tornadoes across the South. Before that the focus was on extreme cold and blizzard conditions enveloping the country’s Northern tier. And not too long before that, it was the tail end of the hurricane season decimating Florida’s west coast.

Hardly a month goes by anymore without some major weather event threatening life, limb and property in some part of the country. Even areas once believed to be insulated from extreme weather events are finding themselves more frequently in the climatic cross hairs.

While most such events are themselves of relatively short duration, the resulting disruption can be substantial and threaten the profitability and even viability of individual businesses. And despite forecasters’ ability to predict potentially extreme events farther in advance, there remains substantial uncertainty almost until the moment that an actual storm has arrived.

Recall for example last September as Hurricane Ian approached the Florida coast. Within a seven-day period prior to its arrival, more than a dozen cities were projected as a potential site of landfall. Similarly, when severe thunderstorms approach, a tornado “watch” may be issued across a wide geographic area, but when one actually spawns, the amount of time available to react is much smaller.

All of this is to ask the question; what’s your preparedness strategy?

If a major storm was approaching a region in which you have one or more stores, do your employees know what steps to take? If, as happened during the recent Atlanta Market, a tornado “warning” was issued, do your employees know how to protect and direct your guests? The answer in Atlanta, by the way, was yes.

If floods sweep your service area, do you have a plan to contact employees before, during or after the crisis comes? Is all the information you’ll need to recover afterward — insurance, customer and employee records, key contacts, etc. — readily available and safeguarded?  How long would it take you to repair, replace or rebuild a damaged or destroyed store? What will you do in the meantime?

The time to answer these questions is not after an extreme event occurs but before … well before.

As the frequency of extreme weather events continues to rise, it’s worth taking the time to assess your organization’s readiness plan. And if you don’t have one, this is a good time to begin developing one. While “hurricane season” has long been a focal point of preparedness planning, particularly across low-lying coastal areas, the increasing frequency and geographic diversity of extreme weather events makes it worthwhile to have a plan in place regardless of where your business is located.

Advance planning and preparedness costs little; the alternative could be costly indeed.

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