Prepare Your Business for Winter Weather Threats

Nov 9, 2023

Every business faces various winter weather threats during the snowy season, from strong rainstorms and ice to plummeting temperatures. Knowing the tactical steps to prepare your business for winter weather is essential to avoid downtime. Being prepared with an actionable plan will minimize the impact inclement weather can have on your employees, customers, and revenue.

Having actionable resources at hand will help your team be educated on what to do in extreme winter weather conditions and actions they need to avoid to stay safe. An effective way to strategize is to enlist a team of people to perform a winter weather tabletop exercise. This exercise should last between two to three hours, spending time as a group defining the risks of extreme winter weather, exploring different scenarios, and putting together a plan of action to use when winter weather strikes.

Performing this task as a group is an excellent way to cover the entire scope of possibilities and solutions during a winter weather crisis. If you want to ensure you remain in business all winter, this exercise will help you formulate your business's best plan.

Consider All Risks

The first step when preparing for winter weather disruptions is to define all of the possible risks of not being ready for a storm and how they will impact your organization as a whole. With proper preparation, the avoidance of these risks If severe winter weather hits the area where your business is located, the following could potentially occur:

  1. Power loss
  2. Fires
  3. Floods
  4. Communications Disruptions
  5. Supply chain disruption
  6. Property damage
  7. Employee injury or illness
  8. Transportation disruption
  9. Automobile/other transportation accidents
  10. Compromised access to facilities
  11. Personal exhaustion, hypothermia, heart attack
winter weather risks

It is essential to evaluate potential risks and outcomes to create an efficient inclement weather plan. Each business will have unique risks, so defining the possible scenarios ahead of time is important. Troubleshooting will eliminate most of the risks, and having risk management strategies outlined will ensure handling the events will be managed quickly and effectively. 

Once you have isolated and defined individual risks, it is good to prepare a plan of action for each incident. Having all bases covered is key to keeping business continuity intact during the winter months.

Drafting Winter Storm Plans in Stages

Before the Storm

before the snow storm

The worst possible scenario for a business is to attempt to cobble together a plan when a storm is on its way or already in your area. Covering these elements ahead of time will enable you to move straight to your plan of action when the storm hits:

  • Review Insurance Coverage (flooding)
  • Evaluate the potential risks to determine your business's most detrimental risks and their potential outcomes: loss of heat, frozen pipes, and inability to access your business site due to snow and ice.
  • Identify who will be in charge of clearing the snow and ice from the property - the business owner or landlord.
  • Establish a procedure for restoring electrical service on an item-by-item basis (know your electrical load demands ahead of time)
  • Determine alternate routes to access business in the event ice or snow blocks main entrances
  • Establish an inclement weather attendance policy for employees
  • Meet with and discuss your winter weather preparedness plans with your vendors
  • Stockpile emergency supplies as needed
    • Rocksalt, snow equipment remover, kitty litter, and sand
    • Service generators and top off fuel reserves
    • Ensure all battery-powered devices have new batteries or crank/solar chargers
  • Establish shelter locations and stockpile supplies on location for your employees
  • Know ahead of time what local broadcasters will publish the status of your business to the public
  • Ensure redundant communication channels (phone lists of employees and their relatives/spouses, backup email addresses, etc.)
  • Establish remote access to your corporate website to update your business's status to vendors

Winter weather is challenging to plan for due to its unpredictable nature. Winter storms are apt to occur with little to no warning, so creating and reviewing a solid plan will prevent panic, leading to serious mishaps and consequences.

During the Storm

during the snow storm

Now that you are in the midst of the storm, it is time to implement your plan. If your business has participated in a winter weather tabletop exercise, you can handle events associated with harsh weather as they occur.

  • Stay informed and communicate regularly.
  • Watch for rapidly changing weather conditions.
  • Ensure employee and customer safety and well-being
  • Stay indoors as much as possible.
  • Work periodically to keep doorways, walkways, and driveways clear of ice.
  • Let faucets drip to keep water flowing in the case of prolonged, low temperatures.
  • Keep the contact information for your heating contractor, plumber, fire department, insurance agent, and building owner accessible.
  • If your building will remain vacant for a long period of time, assign someone to check indoor temperatures
  • Do not overload circuits in your facility with space heaters or other large appliances.
  • Locate your emergency weather radio
  • Conserve fuel if necessary
  • Locate water, gas, and power shut-off locations

Knowing your business's specific protocol for handling winter weather is imperative to keeping your business up and running during a storm and maintaining operations during prolonged bad weather. 

ZERO HOUR: When a Storm is Imminent

You and your team have done the work, researched, and created a safety plan tailored to your business's operations. Now it is time to implement the procedure and watch as your business weathers the storm.

  • Follow the plan. Be decisive and trust the plan.
  • Stay abreast of the storm's status to avoid surprises.
  • Alert 3rd party crisis response providers
  • Enact emergency evacuation or shelter-in-place plans for employees
  • Activate your crisis communication plan
  • Secure facilities, buildings, and inventories
  • Don't be complacent during downtime (losses can incur quickly)

Common Mistakes Made During Crisis

  • Ignoring warnings
  • Being unprepared for long-term power and communication outages
  • Unprepared for generation connection (no transfer switch, fuel provider, spider box, or working knowledge of load requirements)
  • Failure to prepare for supply chain disruptions
  • Failure to adequately stock emergency supplies
  • Failure to communicate
  • Failure to obtain adequate insurance coverage for loss of use, loss of revenue, and added expense
  • Failure to establish emergency procedures and providers for call forwarding, temporary power, communications provider, etc

It is very easy to panic when wintery weather threatens your business's continuity. Knowledge of potential mistakes that happen gives the team working on this exercise the power to make the plan as failsafe as possible. 

Winter Weather Preparedness Checklist

Our team of experts has put together a brief yet comprehensive winter weather preparedness checklist for your convenience. Use it to help guide your workforce through the most basic safety steps. Aside from the tactical steps, supplies, such as non-perishable foods, need to be prepared in advance:

  • Bottled water (at least one gallon per person per day for at least three days)
  • Canned goods, especially cozy, warming foods like soups and stews
  • Snack foods like chips, crackers, and cookies in sealed packages
  • Cereal and granola
  • Anything jarred, from jellies to pickles to meats
  • Canned tuna and salmon
  • Dried pasta and jarred sauce
  • Wax-sealed hard cheeses
  • Salted butter, which lasts longer at room temperature than unsalted butter
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts
  • Jerky
  • Energy bars
  • Shelf-stable juice
  • Coffee, tea, and hot cocoa mix (and maybe some marshmallows)
  • Extra paper products like toilet paper and paper towels

Learn the Difference Between Winter Weather Advisories, Watches, and Warnings

According to FEMA, these define the three winter weather advisories:

Winter Weather Advisory is issued when snow, blowing snow, ice, sleet, or a combination of these wintry elements is expected, but conditions should not be hazardous enough to meet warning criteria. Be prepared for winter driving conditions and possible travel difficulties. Use caution when driving.

Winter Storm Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for a significant winter storm event. Heavy sleet, heavy snow, ice storms, blowing snow, or a combination of these events are possible.

Winter Storm Warnings are issued for a significant winter weather event, including snow, ice, sleet, blowing snow, or a combination of these hazards. Travel will become difficult or impossible in some situations. Delay your travel plans until
conditions improve.

If you are armed with this information, you and your team will be able to plan for the worst and expect the best. Agility Recovery Solutions helps businesses plan for unexpected business interruptions, avoid unexpected interruptions, and become resilient. In the event your business is affected by a disastrous winter storm, Agility Recovery Solutions is there to help you remain in business. 

Our mission is to reduce the impact of business interruptions on organizations and the communities they serve. We help businesses stay in business. Our purpose is to help businesses be prepared before, during, and after an incident. 

After decades of helping businesses recover from real disasters and manage through emergency messaging incidents, we bring the collective experiences of thousands of hours in the field. We’ve evolved into the leading business continuity and disaster recovery end-to-end solution in the market.