Severe weather and weather disasters have become all too common and all too often businesses aren’t prepared to respond when the threat of severe weather emerges. Statistics show that when businesses close due to a disaster, 25% never reopen. As they say, An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and a little precaution before a crisis occurs is preferable to a lot of fixing up afterward.
Spring is a time of year I believe we all look forward to, I know I do. It’s also a time for unpredictable weather and a time when you have to remain alert and pay attention to rapidly changing weather conditions. As a business you should do all you can to safeguard your business and assets so you can expedite recovery and get back in the game as soon as possible. As a Federal Firearms Licensee you have a responsibility to protect the public from the risk of theft or the loss of firearms and ammunition. Severe weather events have shown how vulnerable FFL’s can be when external threats seek the opportunity to take advantage.
Now is the time to start reviewing your springtime disaster plans and disaster communications strategies. If you don’t have a plan in place, support is available through the National Shooting Sports Foundation and both the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as well as the Department of Homeland Security have informational resources available to assist in your preparedness efforts.
Before building your plan, know what to plan for. Thunderstorms cause most of the severe spring weather and can bring lightning, hail, tornadoes, and flooding. Know the risks in your area and not just those that will impact your business and the immediate vicinity around your business, but the risks that can impact your abilities to evacuate the area, re-access your business after the weather passes, return to your home or to get to shelter. Also understand what vulnerabilities may exist that can impact utilities, first responders abilities to respond, etc. Although there are inherent risks that are out of your control, they may still impact your abilities to respond and recover.
A major component of your plan should include having the capability to safeguard and protect your firearms inventory, ammunition and records. In the event you’ll be moving inventory or records to an alternate location, contact your local ATF field office to let them know and gain any additional guidance that you may need.
Once you have the ball rolling on building your plan, know how you’ll be warned and what resources, organizations, and emergency services are in your immediate area and what the likelihood of their availability will be to support your efforts in an emergency. What is your backup plan if help is unable to reach you or if no warning systems are in place, so that you’ll know how and when to implement your plan.
If your relying on local media or using other solutions, such as a weather radio, know the terms used by forecasters and develop your plan so that it provides you with the ability to respond to each type of weather event or even multiple weather events that may occur simultaneously;
Flash Flood – A flood which is caused by heavy or excessive rainfall in a short period of time, generally less than 6 hours. A dam failure can also cause a flash flood, depending on the type of dam and time period during which the break occurs.
Flash Flood Watch – Flash flooding is possible in and close to the watch area, but the occurrence is neither certain or imminent. Listen to the National Weather Service, radio or television for information.
Flash Flood Warning – Flash flooding is in progress, imminent, or highly likely. Seek higher ground immediately or evacuate if directed to do so.
Severe Thunderstorm – A thunderstorm that produces a tornado, winds of at least 58 mph (50 knots), and/ or hail at least ¾" in diameter. Structural wind damage may imply the occurrence of a severe thunderstorm. A thunderstorm wind equal to or greater than 40 mph (35 knots) and/or hail of at least ½" is defined as approaching severe.
Severe Thunderstorm Watch – Tells you there is a possibility of severe thunderstorms in your area likely to occur. Watch the sky and stay tuned to know when warnings are issued.
Severe Thunderstorm Warning – A severe thunderstorm is occurring or will likely occur soon in your area. Warnings are for imminent danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm. Seek shelter immediately.
Tornado Watch – Tornadoes are possible in your area. Remain alert for approaching storms. Listen to the media for updates.
Tornado Warning – A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.
Ensure you’ve developed a Communications Plan as well, so you have the capability to communicate and respond both during an emergency as well as in the hours and days that follow. Just as important as having a plan, ensure employees know what the plan is and how or who they can call to report that they are safe and receive updates. The Plan should include a list of all employees’ contact information. Depending upon the size of your organization, you may want to consider using a call tree to aid in the notifications process, assigning responsibilities to management team members.
Don’t overlook using social media solutions as a communications tool and information resource. State and local agencies use social media outlets to provide up to date information on utility outages, flooding, road closures, etc. With direct messaging and micro-blogging solutions such as Twitter, social media can prove to be a powerful solution for distributing information, keeping the community in the know as well as letting your employees know what your plans are.
Maintain an accurate inventory and ensure that records are up to date. These will be vital to assisting law enforcement and establishing losses for insurance purposes. Speaking of insurance, review your insurance policies regularly to ensure you know the types of weather events and damages that are covered by your insurance policy. Most policies do not cover floods and other natural disasters. Consider enhancements to your policy to determine if more complete coverage is available that may include reimbursement for business disruption in addition to physical losses. Keep all of you insurance policies, important documents and other valuables in a safe, secure location. It’s also recommended to have copies secured in secondary locations to ensure, even in the worst case scenario, you’ll have access if the need arises.
There is no doubt that devoting the time to and building out your Plan has the ability to be overwhelming. You are not in this alone! As previously mentioned, there are a number of resources available to you to support your efforts with #DisasterPrep. I’ve provided a few website links below that can help for those of you who are the DIY type. Your local Emergency Management professionals and the National Shooting Sports Foundation also have additional resources available to provide support.
Useful Online Resources
Open For Business Toolkit - The Easy Way To Prepare Your Business For The Unexpected