Just as some parts of the country began to recover from the disastrous 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, along came 2018, another above average season. The 2017 season resulted in over 3350 deaths and damages of $295 billion. Texas will never forget Harvey, Florida will never forget Irma, and the destruction caused by Maria in Puerto Rico is still being felt.
While the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season was less severe, the season started early with tropical storm Alberto in May followed by hurricane Beryl in July. The middle of the season was quiet, and then came hurricane Florence in September. Florence rendered catastrophic damage to the Carolinas. And then there was Michael, the first category 5 hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland since Andrew in 1992. Michael came ashore at the Florida panhandle towns of Mexico Beach and Panama Beach on October 1st. The towns were virtually flattened with winds reaching 139 miles per hour. A friend of mine, who has lived in the southeast all his life and has seen many a hurricane’s destruction, drove through Panama Beach just last week. He said he has never seen total destruction quite like it. And this was 8 months after the fact.
The prediction for the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season is the same a for the 2018 season – “near normal”, with 2 to 4 major hurricanes expected. But the results of 2 of the storms that did hit in 2018 were devastating. So, fingers crossed for 2019.
As a refresher, below are basic minimum steps to be sure your stores as well as your homes are prepared for a hurricane. And the majority of these precautions apply to most any type of disaster, natural or man-made.
- Review all crisis communications guidelines as they relate to hurricanes or other pending disasters.
- Be sure all contact information is up to date and that store management maintains a copy away from the store.
- Be sure that all stores (and your homes) have a basic disaster supply kit including flashlights, batteries, first aid supplies, and a battery and/or a hand-crank radio. Plus water.
- Most malls and communities have text or email alerting systems for emergency notification. Be sure you and your store management are aware of crisis communication alert protocols for your area.
The following are specific crisis management protocols for when a hurricane or other major disaster is on the way:
- Advise store personnel to fil their vehicle gas tanks. It may not be available later.
- Assign someone at corporate, in potentially affected stores and at home to monitor broadcasts for potential disaster information.
- Coordinate any potential store closures with mall and corporate management.
- Be sure all stores are familiar with shutoffs for gas, water and/or electricity. Sometimes this is a mall issue, sometimes not. The same knowledge of shutoff information applies to homes, too.
- Review all evacuation procedures.
- Move merchandise away from windows.
- Elevate merchandise, at least to pallet height.
- Secure all cash registers, cash and cash rooms.
- Be sure all cell phones are 100% charged. Text messages are often the only form of communication available after a major event.
- Follow exactly any evacuation or other orders given by police or fire authorities. No heroes – if ordered to do so, get out. Communicate plans to corporate.
Below are some post-incident crisis management guidelines:
- Check on all store personnel and your family regarding their well-being
- Return to the store or home only when safe and allowed by authorities.
- Inspect and document damage. Take pictures. Report damage to corporate following company guidelines. Also notify personal insurance companies.
- Coordinate facility repair needs with mall and corporate officials.
- Document all costs and expenses.
- Familiarize yourself with all corporate communications guidelines to be followed if contacted by the media.
It’s true that hurricanes in the United States usually affect the gulf coast and eastern seaboard locations. But most of the above information applies to any type of disaster, natural or man-made. Remember – NO HEROES! Follow all directions given by authorities and GET OUT if told to do so.