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Loss Prevention

What's your hurricane preparedness plan? Here's what it should include.

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As we mark the six-day anniversary of Hurricane Irene and the six-year anniversary of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, many people on the East Coast may believe that the worst is behind them. Unfortunately we still have two months left of the 2011 hurricane season. And when it comes to hurricanes, nothing is certain. While scientists can now predict hurricanes with some degree of accuracy, the course and intensity can change greatly in a short period of time (we saw this with Hurricane Irene just last week). What this means is that the time to put together an emergency kit, a communication plan and an evacuation plan is right now.

Hurricane forecasters are currently watching two storms: Tropical Storm Katia - which is flirting with hurricane status - while Tropical Depression Thirteen (TD-13) is in the Gulf, triggering storm warnings in the Northern Gulf coast area.

You're probably wondering how hurricanes get their name. An international committee maintains the list of names to be used on a six-year rotation. The only time that there is a change in the list is if a storm is so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate for reasons of sensitivity (like Hurricane Katrina). Find out more about names here.

The Department of Homeland Security and FEMA have made available tips for personal and business preparedness. Developing a plan and communicating to field personnel can relieve stress and ensure you have sufficient supplies. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.

Here's a summary of FEMA's recommendations for hurricane preparedness:

1. Create a Kit ("To-Go Bag") including items like non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries. You may want to prepare a portable kit and keep it in your car. Don't forget copies of important documents: your driver's license, Social Security card, proof of residence, insurance policies, wills, deeds, birth and marriage certificates, tax records, etc.

2. Make A Plan and consider how to contact family members in the event of an emergency, where to meet if disaster strikes and make sure you have transportation (and fuel) to get there. Don't forget about your furry friends and appropriate pet supplies.

3. Stay Informed by familiarizing yourself with the scale, potential impacted areas and possible damage. Hurricanes can produce widespread torrential rains and can trigger flooding, landslides or mudslides, especially in mountainous regions.

Keeping your family safe during a natural disaster is of paramount importance, but retailers should also be thinking about the best ways to protect their businesses. Here are some tips:

  • Keep the needs of the community and your customers in mind - allow enough time for employees to safely manage personal obligations
  • Assess company functions and define critical business processes, equipment, suppliers/service providers and staffing needs
  • Stage merchandise and critical supplies in a safe area, ready to deploy
  • Keep current contact information, including cell phone numbers, both electronically and in hard copy
  • Consider using a hotline for employees to check-in, provide on-the-ground status reports, and give updates about their personal situation
  • Hotlines can also be used to share store/facility status, payroll policies and other company information
  • Develop manual operating guidelines in case of utility outages, such as communications failures or loss of electricity

There are many resources available and basic business principals apply...prepare, assess and communicate. If you haven't done so by now, please sign up to be a National Preparedness Month Coalition member.