October 05

Identifying Risk Before Natural Disasters

Any business that operates out of a facility is at constant risk. Natural disasters, whether it be snow, rain, tornadoes, hurricanes, or even earthquakes, have the potential to disrupt business in very serious ways.

Damage or destruction to a facility can seriously damper, or even out right stop, revenue generating activities such as retail (stores being able to open to public, like a Garden Center), production (facilities being able to produce goods like Greenhouses and Sign Manufacturers), or services (like a Veterinary office or Funeral Home). As anyone can see, disruption of any of these activities can cost a business a lot of revenue.

It is imperative that business owners and their teams try to prevent disruptions in business caused by natural disasters as best as they can. Doing so can effectively mitigate the chances of business being disrupted.

Heather Janoski at Cherry Logistics wrote a great piece on ways to identify risk before a natural disaster strikes. The five points of identity she wrote about are as follows:

1. Identify the Critical Functions of Each Facility
The best way to keep each of your facilities protected from a disaster is to determine in advance the critical function of each facility and the exact utilities which are required in order to keep this function operating. Meet with your teams from each facility to assess what systems failure would completely shut down business, and then identify the tools and utilities that control the system. Facilities managers have little control in general over the utility distribution system outside their facilities, but often these utility loops create redundant systems that can provide a backup during a disaster. Go over your site plans and know how to access these systems. Also, umbrella insurance coverage is helpful in the event that any of your utilities are permanently damaged.

2. Identify Technical Threats
An internal network of computers is what keeps pretty much every modern business running. It’s simultaneously the heart and brain of your business. Prepare for power loss or disruption by having plans in place for a failure of system or application software, or a malfunction of the CPU due to power surge. Have numerous backups in place and make sure they are surge protected in the event of a storm. That last thing you want is to lose data because of weather. Also, give your employees access to two-way radios and cell phones so communication is never lost.

3. Identify Single Point Failures
A key point of risk assessment in construction is keeping track of single-point failures or bottlenecks. These are points along your operations wherein an interruption can stop the flow of business entirely. Identify as many of these bottlenecks as you can and, if possible, eliminate them. If the single-point failure could shut down your company, try and find an alternative method. It’s not always simple, but in a facilities crisis, it’s vital to have options.

4. Identify Structural Weakness
Your facility itself can take immense punishment during a storm or disaster. Go over the exterior of your facility to look for exposed ventilation, damaged or cracked surfaces, and any plants or trees which could damage your facility if they were to fall. Also identify internal structural weaknesses such as supporting walls or pillars. Physical damage to the facility itself is often where recovery costs skyrocket. Risk management courses can also offer many valuable tips in this area.

5. Identify Critical Supplies and Contact Numbers
As a facilities manager, you know what supplies your employees need to do their job and stay protected during a disaster. Make sure all emergency supplies and equipment are accounted for, and take regular inventory to make sure nothing gets lost. Consider that a technical failure can lead to temporary or permanent loss of contact information if backups fail. Be sure to keep a physical record of all your most important numbers.

Following these five important points can be an essential practice in managing the risk of facility damage due to natural disasters and can therefore effectively protect revenue generating activities. With the continued pattern of severe weather, these practices are more imperative than ever.

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