In the Pandemic, the Need to Prepare for Severe Weather Becomes Critical

The past year has been a challenge for small businesses and no industry has been impacted quite like small hospitality operations. Restaurants have been flexible, nimble and downright creative to keep the doors open during the pandemic. Yet, as we settle into one new norm, in many parts of the country spring severe weather now looms. 

The good news is severe weather is one challenge you can do something about. Research from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) shows that improvements to commercial facilities, both small and large, can strengthen your building against high winds, heavy rain, hail and even low level tornadoes, to meaningfully reduce the risk that costly damage will further disrupt operations. 

For any commercial building, the roof is the first line of defense to protect against wind, rain and hail. Whether customers are eating inside or out, your roof protects equipment vital to keeping the doors open. A damaged or poorly maintained roof can result in costly water damage to interior spaces and roof-mounted equipment such as exhaust fans and air conditioning units. Water damage or damaged equipment can mean closing your business for repairs at a time when restaurants are already struggling with reduced income.

Although power outages are commonly associated with hurricanes, they can also occur during severe thunderstorms. Lightning can cause electrical outages and surges that damage critical equipment, such as refrigerators and freezers, that can take a day or more to repair. The potential loss of food stored in those units is an additional hurdle to resuming normal operations. Having a backup power source available to keep essential equipment operating is key to avoid costly down time.

In a new dynamic resulting from the pandemic, capacity restrictions have caused many restaurants to turn to outdoor dining to remain open. These new spaces are particularly vulnerable to severe weather, such as thunderstorms with high winds and potentially tornadoes. High winds can overturn seating, damage awnings, signage, and outdoor canopies, and even send loose items flying and crashing into windows. 

Severe convective storms can approach rapidly so routine maintenance coupled with having an emergency preparedness plan in place is an important way to reduce vulnerability to these storms. A plan that sits on a shelf collecting dust doesn’t help so it is critical that employees are aware of your plans and practice them throughout the year so when a storm approaches you aren’t left scrambling.

Preparedness and planning are central to reducing downtime resulting from severe weather, and IBHS has a number of free tools and tips that help keep your business safe when severe weather strikes and ready to go after it’s over.  Meeting the needs of busy entrepreneurs and operators, IBHS recently released a new step-by-step guide, Thunderstorm-Ready Business, that provides a roadmap for small businesses and commercial building owners to better understand their risks and learn how to prepare in advance of spring storms. It outlines the key tasks small businesses and commercial building owners should consider today, before the forecast calls for severe weather.