It Starts with Understanding Hurricane Damage
Hurricane season generally runs from June through November in the United States, with September being the seasonal peak. Hurricanes occur worldwide. They're tropical cyclones classified with winds 74 mph or greater, and major hurricane force winds start at 111 mph. Hurricane watches mean that hurricanes are possible within 36 hours, while warnings mean hurricanes are imminent.
If you're inland, you're less likely to be damaged from storm surge and flooding, but if your company resides in a hurricane-prone area, your vulnerability skyrockets. Not only do you risk critical data and equipment loss, 75 percent of all deaths occur during these storm surges and subsequent flooding.
Small-to-medium sized businesses are at greatest risk of closing forever in the aftermath of this natural disaster. Be prepared by understanding these 5 hurricane damage categories:
- Category 1: some damage to roofs, power lines with outages lasting several days. Winds 74 to 95 mph.
- Category 2: extensive roof, tree and power line damage, outages can last weeks. Winds 96 to 110 mph.
- Category 3: devastating damage, outages and water supplies can be out for weeks. Winds 111 to 130 mph.
- Category 4: catastrophic damage, power outages lasting weeks to months. Winds 131 to 155 mph.
- Category 5: catastrophic damage, community isolation, outages can last months. Winds 155+ mph.
It's risky business no matter what category the hurricane. It's time to conduct (or review) your IT risk assessment before the storm. This assessment must include your IT department, senior management, and relevant stakeholders.
"As industries become leaner and more connected, natural catastrophes can disrupt a large variety of sectors that might not seem directly affected at first glance around the world."
Ali Shahkarami, Head of Catastrophe Risk Research, AGCS.
That's a heavy statement to unpack. Enterprises tend to be fast-paced, agile, interconnected, with critical data stored in the cloud as well as in many physical locations. Mom-and-pop shops and SMBs may not--and realistically, probably aren't as likely to be so diverse. Nevertheless, hurricane season means risk to all of them and that is a risk that must be assessed on a regular basis.
Understanding Risk Assessment
Building inspections--can they stand up under hurricane force winds, storm surges and flooding? Do you have backup power should outages occur? The time for maintenance is before the storm. It's especially important that windows and doors are protected from windborne debris. Make sure that you have a plan to secure outdoor equipment. Unsecured equipment can slam through windows and doors like missiles.
Who's in charge of monitoring hurricanes and other severe weather? What's the chain of command for alerts? Do you have emergency supplies and other life-saving equipment? Have they been tested? You will need to have backup power, flashlights, batteries, first aid supplies and fire protection equipment handy.
What's your business continuity plan? Do you even have one? Having a plan in place ensures that your company's critical processes and resources aren't disrupted. Disruptions cost money, data and often equipment.
Keeping Data and IT Equipment Safe
After you've conducted your risk assessment, you have to design and implement your disaster recovery plan. This plan is key to keeping your critical data and physical equipment safe during and after a hurricane.
- Backup your data to the cloud. Have data housed in safe locations away from flood zones. Have emergency documents on hand like employee contact and payroll information, contractor information, financial, tax, insurance and leases.
- Keep hand-held devices like iPads and cell phones fully charged. Make sure you have a working digital camera to take pictures of your property before and after hurricane damage. Keep extra batteries.
- Unplug what you can: computers, monitors, and printers are subject to destructive power surges. You may need plastic coverings to keep moisture at bay.
- Move your equipment away from windows and other areas where rain and flood damage can occur.
- Keep yourself safe by avoiding use of electrical equipment during a hurricane unless you are trained to do so.
- Be wary of independent contractors soliciting work in the aftermath of a hurricane. Your disaster recovery plan should provide for contractor restoration hires.
Once your Disaster Recovery Plan is intact, you have to keep updating it - it must stay current. We know that it can feel overwhelming no matter what size your company. Let us help you manage before, during and after natural disasters like hurricanes. Don't let your company be a statistic. That would be catastrophic.