If you are anywhere near Florida right now, chances are you are surrounded by panic and unanswered questions about where to go in time for Hurricane Irma’s arrival. As of the Weather Channel’s report on Wednesday September 6th (11:30am), Hurricane Irma is a potentially catastrophic Category 5 hurricane that is heading toward the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas and Cuba before posing a serious threat to Florida and parts of the Southeast beginning this weekend. Where it will land in Florida and expected impact have yet to be determined, but in the meantime, it is time to prepare, not panic. Here are a few key things you can do to get you and your company prepared for any impact the hurricane may have on the southeast:
- Communicate – Communicate your company’s plans for closure with your team and your clients. Have an emergency number available (if possible) for your clients to reach you or have the ability to leave a message that will be returned. Have a call/text contact tree for your employees so that they can check in with each other if help is needed or if they are unable to get back in town once operating hours resume.
- Back Up – While you should already have back up of your computer systems in place, now is the time to perform an entire system back up to be stored in a secure, watertight location off site. Make a minimum of two copies to go with separate team members. Also, use the cloud; whether you choose Microsoft cloud, Dropbox or something similar, be sure to have important documents and files uploaded to a cloud source you use and trust.
- Take Photos – This tip goes for home and office. Take photos of all equipment, furniture, etc. prior to the storm. You should have everything of value photographed in case it is needed for insurance and/or replacement purposes. Just as with your other important files, upload the photos to a cloud-based drive as well.
- Gather Documents – Paper documents including but not limited to property insurance, tax documentation, medical information, policies, etc. should be scanned and stored in your back up systems and cloud, and the hardcopies should be stored in watertight containers.
- Save Contacts – Your phone may be waterproof, but service is far from guaranteed after a storm. Make sure to back up your contacts on your phone to the cloud, as well as print out contacts to store safely. You never know if you may actually need to dial a phone number from a different location, and having access to necessary contacts and phone numbers is essential.
- Protect Hardware – Computers, printers, cameras, monitors and other hardware should be protected in the event of a roof leak or broken window. Make sure to seal them and store them in a room where there aren’t any windows. If you have covers specific for this purpose, great – If not, heavy duty garbage bags (doubled) and duct tape can be potentially helpful.
- Secure the Site – In addition to removing any of your materials and equipment from open projects, you may also be able to assist your clients by warning them of any outdoor furniture, grills or other items that they should secure indoors. Loose objects ranging from gardening tools to chaise lounges are usually the first things to get picked up by strong winds and can be the most damaging to buildings.
There are many steps to properly prepare for a storm of this magnitude. No matter where you are and how little you may expect to feel from Hurricane Irma, it is time to have a plan in place for your business and family. Food, water and flashlights are the basics that are essential for hurricane preparation, but you also want to make time to protect valuables, including data, so that you can expedite recovery from the storm and be back to business in the coming weeks.
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